Day 2, rage against the machine!

In honour of the upcoming Halloween festivities, our team at Comotion will be sharing some of their own CX stories – some terrifyingly great, others rather petrifyingly awful. Our second part comes from Sofia Reimchen, who experienced first-hand what happens when you replace humans with machines at vital stages of the customer journey:

“A certain airline had recently made headlines for having opened the world’s largest self-service bag drop area at a certain British airport. The dream was big and wonderful: to let customers check-in within mere minutes, allowing travellers to breeze through, skipping towards the airport shops and lounges that beckoned beyond security. We arrived with twenty minutes to spare and effortlessly found a free self-service machine. It all slowed down from there.

When it was time to weigh the luggage, the machine politely told us to go to the customer service desk and pay for the excess baggage weight. We were greeted by two excessively smiling reps, who processed the payment at the same pace as their mechanical counterpart. Upon returning to the self-service machine, we found that check-in had closed seconds ago. We rushed back to the customer service desk, pleading for help as this was clearly unfair. We would have checked-in on time if they hadn’t taken so long to take our money. “Oh but did you know that check-in opens 2.5 hours before your flight?” one of them helpfully suggested, “perhaps you can come earlier next time”. “Are you going to give me a refund for the excess baggage payment, since we’re not flying now?”, “Nope”. Smiling, they told us we needed to find the manager. They couldn’t tell the machines to do anything. Given that we still had 45mins until the flight, she might have the authority to check us in late.

We found the aforementioned Madame, who was busy pretending to direct travellers to free self-service machines. “I’ll come find you in a minute”, she told us. We waited. Meanwhile, Madame Manager unexpectedly found queue management extraordinarily engrossing. With a doubled fervent effort, she took the matchmaking of people with free machines to an olympic level. Meanwhile, we waited. Like in a Dali painting, I could feel time dripping through my hands. Finally, my fellow traveller couldn’t wait any longer. He called to her, asking if she would help us. At the sound of his voice, she proceeded to move away into the farthest corner. He raised his voice a little louder. Suddenly, two stern security guards popped up at our side. We explained that time wasn’t on our side and we urgently needed the manager’s assistance. They trotted over to her and asked her if she would come over. “Tell them to wait, I’m busy”, says Madame Manager and sends the security guys back to deliver her message.

When Madame finally found the time to speak to us, she said it was too late for her to do anything (of course, she had made us wait 20mins) and that the only thing she could do was to give us a £80 discount for the next flight to our destination – which was due next week.

What we had witnessed was the complete disconnect between employees and their tech counterparts who, instead of making their (and the travellers’) lives easier, evidently scared them to death and disempowered them. Maybe let’s not rush with replacing all humans with machines just yet.

I’m looking into alternative flying options such as magic carpets and flying broomsticks as we speak.