In a post at Emergence Marketing, Francois Gossieaux tells the story of making reservations with Air France for a trip to Belgium, where his father—who had been diagnosed with a pair of aneurisms—was scheduled for a complex surgery.
Gossieaux didn't notice a glitch in the itinerary until calling ahead to give his parents the dates of his arrival and departure. "I wanted to come back on the 27th," he writes, "and for some reason when I ordered through airfrance.com they booked me on a train from Brussels to Paris on the 27th and a flight on the 28th."
It seemed to him like an easy fix—especially when he learned the desired flight had plenty of space. Gossieaux was even willing to pay a fee for something he blamed on the Air France interface: "I order stuff online all the time and if there is an overnight situation I expect the site to alert me to this." But no amount of cajolery, however solicitous, would cause Air France to budge. He would have to buy a new ticket, they said, and he did—on Air Lingus.
"In these bad economic times, you would expect companies whose service[s] are going to be the first to be cut from personal and business budgets to do everything they can to hold on to their customers," he notes, "especially if it does not cost them a dime to accommodate the change request which would satisfy the customer, and perhaps make up for their deficient product offering."
The Po!nt: There will be times when you cannot meet a customer's expectations—but be prepared for very public fallout if your position doesn't sound reasonable to most people.
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