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Customer service – learnings from airline experience

Today I had to deal with customer service for a major airline, and it was such a negative experience that I feel compelled to write about it.

If your product offers customer service, there are some suitable lessons here.


Our problem was the interpretation of essential guidance by the CDC needed to travel into the USA. 

We had the latest guidance, but the airline operator didn’t, so we lost our flight.

  • Now think about software for a minute. If you are on a team that subscribes to continuous delivery, how is your support team made aware of new changes?
  • How often is the documentation that users and support rely on updated?
  • When you have conflicting information, do you train your support team to re-validate their assumptions?

In our case, the airline didn’t propagate regulation fast enough.

They didn’t train for edge cases and trained their staff to go with their assumptions rather than empowering them to verify the information.

The result was abismal customer experience and various unhappy flyers with lost flights complaining about an easily avoidable situation.


Our situation didn’t fit the usual support request that most users deal with, so we contacted the airline via phone to speak to a representative.

Here, we ran into an automated phone system that didn’t offer any of the options we were looking for, so we got routed to use WhatsApp.

Thinking I was going to chat with a representative, I got on WhatsApp, and to my surprise, I got another bot 🤖.

This bot didn’t provide an option to reach a representative.

I went on social media, and they routed me to a form, and guess where the form sent me? Another automation.

Automation in customer service is excellent for well-defined problems, but human interaction is required for edge cases.

  • When automating customer service, do you offer the option to speak to a human?

In our case, the automation didn’t help. 

The routing from one automated system to another made the experience worst.

In the end, the support experience just added to our grievances and set a bad reputation for the airline.

Thinking back to how this relates to software and the lesson is clear, Don’t let your support process mess up your reputation instead of helping it.

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