A case study on business communications for Business students
I am writing this because I have been egged on by the service staff at the call centre of Jetstar to do so. And why not, it would help them win the award which has been left undecided for some time. Let me give you a bit of background of WBCA or Worst Budget Carrier Award. Previously cemented by Tiger Airways with its atrocious record of customer service and flight delays and cancellations, it has been left undecided for a while ever since they attempted a turnaround with a new CEO and also the rebranding to TigerAir. So for now, it seems like the worst is behind them. Since then, the other carriers flying out of Singapore seem to be level on par, with no one standing out among the three main budget carriers and four or five if you were to include CebuPac and Firefly which flies to only a few destinations from Singapore. However, it seems like Jetstar is now attempting to stand out by winning the WBCA. They have decidedly seem to take the prize by an almost direct route of 1) believing they are now a really big airline and individual customers do not matter and 2) attempting to piss off regular customers.
So let me share with you my experience of how they seem to have succeeded in my perception of them to land the award I mentioned.
My flight in the middle of Feb 14 from Medan to Singapore was cancelled without any pre warning citing volcano eruption, when every single other airline could fly their planes. But alright, that is not just the gist of the problem.
2-3 weeks ago, I called Jetstar to tell them that I saw that Medan was added on the travel advisory list and asked if I could postpone the trip indefinitely, not only was I given a firm rebuttal, I was given the ‘what volcano? no volcano’. Obviously, the customer call centre staff doesnt even know what has been listed on the website while it is something I was so concerned about as I said I could not afford any last minute cancellation and was given this ‘too bad you booked with us already’ attitude.
When I told him that their travel advisory has Bangkok (due to the riots and protests) and Medan on it, he said, “Bangkok got no volcano eruption”.
In my mind, I was thinking, “oh well this is absolutely brilliant.” Trying to make your customers feel stupid is like a great tactic. In the end, I decided it was absolutely useless to be talking to such a fella and ended the call.
2 days before the flight back to Singapore, I was glad to receive a flight confirmation email asking me to check in online. I was thinking, “Oh great. No bad surprises.” After all, they would not ask me check in if they are contemplating of cancelling the flight. But of course, I was very wrong.
Fast forward to flight day about 4 hours before flight time, I received an sms saying ‘Jetstar apologies’. No call whatsoever (this is not the first time I get a Jetstar cancellation but previously there was someone to try and resolve the situation and I had no complaints whatsoever thereafter). The SMS said that I have to go check my email for next steps. So being in shock mode, I found a Bakerzin in the newest shopping mall and logged onto their wifi. Next, the link in the email leads to a ‘cannot retrieve booking’ page and the number to be called also cannot be gotten through. Tell me, I am about to be stranded in Indonesia and this is the kind of treatment is what I receive. They also added a link on their email to tell me that if I want to send any feedback, I can go onto their website ‘don’t care about customers’ section to put in my feedback.
So I was wondering whether the fact that they do not call anymore is because they no longer have the guts to face customers as well as of course do not want to be responsible especially if you are stranded somewhere and without cash. Brilliant tactic if you ask me. Businesses should all learn this form of conflict resolution to lead their customers to becoming their enemies for the sake of profits.
Given the situation that it was impossible to reach the airline and no idea when I might be stuck in the country given they might just cancel the next day and the next next day flight anyway, I booked a flight ticket on another airline which was departing 2-3 hours later. When I arrived at the airport, Jetstar was the only flight cancelled from the long list of outgoing flights. Obviously, the other airlines cannot bear for themselves to cancel flights and face their customers on a reason of volcano eruption on a day when the Jakarta Post reported that volcano refugees are returning to their hometown. Maybe Jetstar flights have a scenic element about them and flies right above the volcano and so even the slightest risk within 5 months of an eruption disables their ability to fly the scheduled flight properly and gives them the excuse to fly as and when they would like.
Now the next part, when I called Jetstar finally after I am back home, not only was the apology highly insincere, I was told what they could do for me was to change my original cancelled flight from Medan back to Singapore to another flight in the next 30 days. (Such a strange resolution is it not when I already told the person I am back in Singapore and even asking me for my address for confirmation etc.) This time round, the Jetstar staff had no problems with understanding what a volcano eruption is as compared to my earlier call 2 weeks ago which the person said there is no such thing as volcano eruption happening. I was then told that ‘I have to read the terms and conditions that they have the right to cancel the flight’.
You heard that: They will cancel your flight as and when they like without caring about your travel plans.
While every airline company states the same about their decision to be able to cancel flights, the difference here is that while other airlines cancel flights, they know there is a need to reach out to customers. Apparently, Jetstar now does not or has forgotten how to. In fact, they probably do not want you to reach them.
Jetstar has now deemed itself as being too big to fail and that individual customers are no longer important to them in the scale of operations they are doing. As such, I urge everyone to play a part in helping Jetstar, not just to win the Worst Budget Carrier Award, but also to help them realise that they need to improve. Things need to get worse for them before they get better through a change in management and service restoration.