Good/Bad Customer service and it's effect

Scenario 1 : I am waiting in line to check in my baggage for an international United airlines flight. A couple in front of me is trying to check-in their baggage. There is some conversation going on between the agent and the couple regd the weight of their baggage. While the conversation is going on, the agent decides to check in the couple baggage and puts it on the conveyor belt..And here is what happens next

Agent : Ma’am, one of your baggage weighed 69.5 lbs and the other 70 lbs, the extra charge is $150. We charge $50 for baggage exceeding 50lbs and up to 70 lbs, and $100 for baggage exceeding 70 lbs and up to 100lbs.

Couple : !!!%^%&&^.. Ma’am, the second baggage is only 70 lbs, why are you chraging $100.

Agent (in a nasal tone) : Ma’am, the rule says 70 lbs and above.

Couple (intimidated) : Yeah, but is it only 0.5 lbs more than the first one and up to 70 lbs is only $50 right?

Agent (in I make the rules tone) : Ma’am, I am not going to argue over this.. It  is $100 for 70 lbs and more.. period.

Couple (nearly in tears) : OK, can we at least take out the 0.5 lbs of weight form the baggage so that we don’t have to pay $100 for it?

Agent (in you dare to speak back to me tone) : Ma’am.. the baggage is already checked in, you cannot take the weight out, you have to pay $100

Couple end up paying $100 because one of their bags was 0.5 lbs extra!!!

Does anyone find this sad? I understand the need to put limits and charge for excess baggage. But shouldn’t the agent have used common sense and made the call not to charge the couple $100 for 0.5 lbs!!! This is a good case of where employee stick to rules and are not given the freedom to make meaningful judgments.. Read Joel Spolsky‘s article about his recent experience at Starbucks and his reaction to understand what I mean :). No wonder United is in a death spiral!! πŸ™‚

Scenario 2 : My second leg of the international trip was on a Lufthansa flight. There was a strike by the ground crew in Frankfurt and Lufthansa couldn’t get the required food into the flight. And here is how the crew handled the issue

  1. Made multiple announcements prior to the boarding that only 1 meal would be served in the journey and that special meal requests cannot be fulfilled.
  2. Provided vouchers to customer to get food from the airport vendors if required.
  3. Make multiple announcements in the flight (pilot, head air hostess and individual air hostesses) and apologized for the inconvenience.
  4. Apologize while serving the first meal and again when we were getting off the flight..

I don’t remember a single passenger complaining about the lack of the “second” meal. And I will fly Lufthansa again, despite this issue. the lesson here is not to apologize multiple times, but how all the crew in the flight (ground crew, flying staff, serving staff) were informed of the issue and ensured that they provided the customers with an alternative and followed up on the issue..

Disclaimer : The united agent, might be an exception or might have been having a bad day..but somehow I sense the issue is bigger than that :)..