Empathy, Service, and American Airlines…

wakemanconsulting Uncategorized Leave a Comment


Somewhere in one of his books, Alan Weiss wrote about being willing to complain and the stack of letters that he has when service doesn’t fit his standards.

More and more often, I see bad service is just the norm and I have an upcoming podcast with Peter Shankman where we talk about customer service needing to just not suck.

The word Peter came back to over and over is empathy.

That brings me to the state of service and American Airlines specifically.

This week, I’ve had to cancel a vacation that my family planned since February because pretty much everyone got sick on Monday.

No big deal, right?

I had purchased the refund protection, so that should make the process simple and painless.


The next time I get a straight answer from either company will be the first time.

I don’t want this blog to be a bitch session about me and my dealings with poor customer service, but what I do want to point out are a few ideas that should be helpful to American Airlines and Allianz:

Customer service doesn’t mean just moving people through the line: 

In this instance, they didn’t really even move me through the line…they just frustrated me.

The thing is when you offer a cancellation insurance like AA and Allianz does, it seems logical that you should be able to answer the basic questions like:

“Should I handle my cancellation first or should I file my claim first?”

“Is it better to fully cancel my ticket or take the credit?”

The proper way to handle this stuff is to know how to point people in the right direction.

I mean, call me crazy, you might even want to have a readily available checklist that you can send people to that explains the steps.

Whatever it is, your customer service at the most basic level should be able to get people from point A to point B.

Empathy goes a long way: 

Robotic customer service is the worst. Tom Leykis talks about “your call is very important to us” as the most disingenuous thing in business.

He isn’t wrong.

In my upcoming podcast with Peter Shankman, we talk a lot about empathy and caring a little bit about your customers.

In today’s episodes of dealing with American Airlines and Allianz, it is pretty clear that they both have cultures of apathy towards their customers.

You compare that to one of Allianz’s main competitors in the refund protection market, Booking Protect, who are my friends and partners, and you see that it doesn’t have to be that way.

And, if you are comparing airlines, look no further than Southwest Airlines or any time I have flown British Air.

Empathy goes a long way, even if you aren’t getting the result you are looking for.

These are obvious challenges for a lot of businesses, but I think the big lesson for all of us is that just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Or, if you do, don’t be surprised when people use you if they have to, but discard you when they don’t.

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