American Airlines and US Airways yesterday announced plans to merge, creating the world’s largest airline. From what I’ve seen and heard, no one is happy about this deal. News sources yesterday and this morning were quoting industry analysts, consumer advocates, financial advisors, and even the average man on the street, and the prevailing sentiment seems to be that travelers can expect higher ticket prices when they fly. That by itself is enough to make consumers mad as hell, but if they try to complain to the now bigger American Airlines, they’ll only get more frustrated.
According to the Temkin Group’s 2012 Temkin Ratings, American and US Airways ranked as the two worst U.S. airlines in customer experience. US Airways held the bottom spot in Temkin’s experience, loyalty, forgiveness, and trust ratings.
I have a problem believing that US Airways’ customer service can be that bad, based on an article I’d written about the carrier in the May 2012 issue of CRM magazine. After all, the carrier has been using an IVR with natural language understanding call steering that allows callers to state the reasons for their calls in their own words. The system, provided by speech powerhouse Nuance Communications as part of its OnDemand hosted platform, also offers personalized call handling with proactive information delivery, automated collection of trip information, and tailored interactions for frequent fliers, which the system can identify just by looking at the phone number from which they are calling and cross-referencing that with its Dividend Miles customer database. Recent system upgrades have brought improved prompting, additional self-service options, support for mobile devices, comprehensive performance monitoring and reporting, and the ability to handle both inbound and outbound customer care interactions.
The airline even has in place a senior vice president of customer experience, Kerry Hester. According to her, the new IVR provides customers with “the convenient, quality care they have come to expect from US Airways.”
Let’s just hope American keeps the tradition alive.