August 25, 2007

Don’t Have/Be Lazy Customer Support

Have you ever have one of those days where you were having a really great day, and then a single experience turns it all around? Like the kind of experience that leaves you with a head ache and you want to scream into a pillow. Today was one of those days.

It’s about 9:00 pm tonight and I was supposed to be on my way to Macao as of about 30 minutes ago. But there was a change of plans and I had to cancel my trip. I had booked a $6000 business class ticket on Thai Airways through Orbitz so I wanted to be very sure that I got refunded for the fare when I canceled. I placed a call to Orbitz at about 11:45 am this morning, and below was how I spent my afternoon.

11:45 – Place 1st call to Orbitz and run through this annoying automated prompter that loops back to the beginning if I hit zero. I finally get to Customer Support after 5 minutes and tell Customer Support I need to cancel the ticket. They put me on hold for about a minute, and then tell me they can’t cancel the ticket. I have to call Thai Airways directly and they give me the number.

12:00 – Call Thai Airways and get an answering machine saying they are closed and won’t be back open till Monday, and to please leave a message. This is where I get a bit confused…because apparently the Thai Airways office at Los Angeles International Airport is closed on the weekend.

12:10 – Call back Orbitz and again have to go through the annoying automated prompts. I get a real person and tell him my situation. He puts me on hold for about 10 minutes (this is my guess because I got to hear the full version of Pachelbel’s Canon just over two times) and tells me that there is nothing he can do and I need to call Thai Airways. I ask him if he is sure and tell him there is no answer, so he gives me the number to the Thai Airways New York office because they should be open.

12:30 – Call the Premier Executive number for United and ask them if they can cancel the trip since the first flight is on United. They say they can cancel the Santa Barbara to Los Angeles leg, but that is all. I ask them to do that, and say thanks.

12:40 – Call Thai Airways New York number and get the same answering machine.

12:45 – Go the Thai Airways website and spend 10 minutes trying to find a number to call that I don’t already have. Google eventually helps me get to the London and Bangkok office phone numbers.

1:00 – Call the London office for Thai Airways and get the same voice mail message.

1:05 – Call the Bangkok office which is HQ for Thai Airways. Again I’m into an automated voice system that is hard to understand because of the thick accent. I try to guess on the right number to press so they speak English and guess wrong so I have to hang up because they are not speaking English.

1:10 – Call the Bangkok number back and this time understand the prompts so I get to the English reservations system. The automated response says there is a very high call volume so I will have to hold. It then tells me that I can fax in my request and they will get back to me. I sit on hold for a full hour and no one ever picks up.

2:20 – Call back the Los Angeles, New York, and London office again to see if I can get through. Get voice message at all three numbers.

2:40 – I call Orbitz back a bit miffed at this point. Go through the same annoying prompts and get to another new customer support person. I tell him my situation. He pulls up my ticket and then proceeds to go through every leg of my itinerary with flight number, departure city and time, arrival city and time, asking for verification. After this he tells me because it’s an international ticket he has to transfer me to an international agent. I’m thinking why did the first two guys not do that?

2:50 – Get transferred to an International agent (Henry) and I go through my situation for the fourth time. Henry puts me on hold for about 15 minutes and comes back on the phone and tells me that I need to call Thai Airways. I’m a pretty patient person, but at this point I lose it and rant for three minutes on how poor the customer support is. He says sorry and puts me on hold for another 15 minutes to see what he can do. He comes back on and asks me if I purchased a fully refundable fair. I ask him if he is serious, and how can he not know that by looking at his computer. He says he doesn’t, and I don’t know either because it’s not on my confirmation email. He puts me on hold for another 10 minutes and then comes back on the phone saying I bought a fully refundable fair and he can refund the ticket. I say “GREAT” and can he send me an email confirming that it has been refunded…and he says “NO” (I’m thinking WHAT?) but is willing to give me his name and reference number. I say no, I want a confirmation email from Orbitz saying that they are going to cancel and refund my ticket. He says he can’t do that. I ask why, and he says it’s not possible. Then he tells me I need to call the insurance company that Orbitz uses to insure international tickets to get a refund for that portion of the ticket. I don’t even ask why Orbitz doesn’t handle that at this point, and write down the number. Then he tells me that I’ll be receiving a confirmation email of the cancellation (Did I just get told this was not possible?).

3:20 – I hang up the phone irritated and with a headache, check my email, and see that Orbitz sent me a Customer Service Survey at12:45 pm. I have not filled it out yet because I don’t want to waste any more time on this today. I fill out most of these surveys whether good or bad, but I definitely will fill out this one.

It took me over three hours to cancel an airline ticket because of lazy customer support. I’m guessing that if the first person would have just followed procedures and took initiative I would have been done in about an hour.

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