Friday, December 22, 2006
Am I the moron?
I fly quite a lot for business, often three or four times every month. We travel a lot for leisure too: our household probably buys half-a-dozen international flights per annum for holidays, visiting relatives and so on. In the old days, all of this business used to go to British Airways, but now our purchasing in more mixed. For example, the family went to the States at the beginning of November on United. But I generally go to BA first, out of habit I suppose. But not any more. When we booked a flight to the U.S. last time, we got a blank web page back after entering a credit card number. We assumed that something had gone wrong -- now, in retrospect, I suspect that it was trying to display an error message along the lines "sorry, we're a bit new at the web thing and our programmers are too stupid to figure out how to make something that works on Apples as well as Windoze" -- so we just called BA to see if the booking had done through. After waiting on hold for 15 minutes they told us that, no, no booking was in the system. So we went back to the beginning and booked again. A few minutes later, there were two confirmation e-mails in the in box. Aaargh! Still, no problem. We'll just give BA a quick call and they'll sort it out. We called and we were held in a queue (on an 0870 number, which costs us money) for 55 minutes. When we finally got through, the guy told me that it was the wrong number, that my executive club "help" desk couldn't help with web bookings, and that he would transfer me to the right "help" desk (which had 31 callers ahead of me). Meanwhile, my wife had gone to run some errands. When I finally got through, they wouldn't help me because although my wife's credit card is supplementary to mine, I was not the named card holder. When my wife got back, she had to start all over again by phoning the 0870 number and sitting on hold again, at our expense, to get through. We should have just cancelled the flights completely and booked another airline, but we didn't. No wonder the service is so bad in the U.K. -- it's our own fault for putting up with it. Next time, it's United again. (Virgin's seats are too cramped). But it has given me an idea for a New Year's resolution: I will refuse to do business with companies that make you call an 0870 number for their call centre rather than an 0800 number. Conversely I will reward companies with 0800 numbers and good call centres. I'll begin with Morgan Stanley: I have one of their MasterCards and whenever there's been a problem I call an 0800 number and get through to a helpful call centre (which I imagine to be in Scotland) and things get resolved quickly.