First off, I don’t typically do this. Rant about a particular organization or brand. However, when their service is so consistently poor, and the low opinion of them is held by a fairly broad number of my friends and colleagues, then I’d suggest they’re fair game.

I’m talking about Canadian loyalty program Aeroplan, the program associated with flag carrier Air Canada but run as an independent business unit. For the non-Canadians reading this, Aeroplan is probably (I’ve no data to back this up) the 2nd largest loyalty program outside of Air Miles which is very similar to Nectar in the UK.

So how did they manage to anger me to such a degree? Let me tell a little story.

My father fell ill in the UK recently (he’s doing much better thanks for asking) so I needed to jump on a plane asafp. With several 100,000 miles earned on Aeroplan that was my first stop. Here’s how the story unfolded.

  • I find a flight leaving at an appropriate time, costing 61K miles to redeem and with seat availability.
  • Enter credit card and the site is unable to process it.
  • Call online customer service, tell them the problem. They attempt to walk me, literally, through the 7 steps I just went through. This despite me telling them I’ve already cleared my cache, rebooted, understand a bit about websites blah, blah. Nope, we spend 15 minutes doing this all again. Net result – they can’t make it work I must call the live service and book through them.
  • Call the live service. They can’t find my flight at all. They then tell me that its going to cost up to twice as many miles versus the 61K I just saw. Additionally I will pay extra for the live service to process the order. Frustrated I hang up.
  • I refresh my browser. Go to the site again. See ticket availability. Book flight for 61K.  

All in, a frustrating experience? Definitely.

Now here’s where it gets interesting…

  • I call customer service back to complain. I’m told two interesting things.
    • The web and the call centre are entirely different platforms with different information and access. The reason? Supposedly it was too “hard” to integrated the two platforms and the integration project was mothballed.
    • All customer complaint calls are recorded and reviewed. Yes…ALL calls.

 

NOW…I immediately write an email to a very senior executive I know at the Aeroplan organization. He’s wicked smart, a great genuine guy and someone I believe should know about this poor service. He responds quickly and sincerely (he really is a good guy) and tells me my email has been sent to the appropriate people at Aeroplan.

That was 18 days ago.

Ranting aside, here’s my simple marketing 101 perspective

  1. Fix your website. The Aeroplan website is notoriously slow and buggy. Failure to authorize my card is not unusual. However, it’s the principal channel by which people connect with you and use your product. Sort it out.
  2. A tiered cost structure is arcane. I get that a call center costs more to operate than a website but I shouldn’t have to pay more for a booking – especially if the cheaper alternative is always bust.
  3. Manage expectations. If the call center and the website operate off different platforms, then tell me that. Otherwise I’ve no idea or patience for paying twice as much for exactly the same product. I still don’t have any patience but at least I might just understand why there is a difference.
  4. Review your customer service procedures. Having dealt with three levels of customer service personnel – and had an unsatisfactory experience every time – wouldn’t you attempt some form of outbound communication to me? If you’ve a recording of my growing frustration across three different “touchpoints”, wouldn’t some kind of response seem necessary?

In closing, here’s my biggest beef and the reason I’ve broadcast this blog post on both my LinkedIn and Facebook profiles;

It has been 18 days since my call to customer service was recorded “for accuracy and training purposes”

16 days since an Executive sent a note internally

I ‘ve had NO RESPONSE from Aeroplan at all. None. Nothing. Da nada.

To my mind this says one of two things about Aeroplan

  1. They have too many customer complaints they can’t process them fast enough.
  2. Or, they don’t care.

 

As a marketer and, more importantly, a customer of theirs I’m not sure which concerns me the most.

(For the direct marketers out there evaluating this on things like LTV etc. I’m no George “Up in the Air” Clooney but I’ve been an Aeroplan member for over a decade and in the past 30 weeks, I’ve traveled 27 of them. Might suggest, by whatever segmentation criteria, that I’m a member that requires nurturing)

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