I'm going to be flying with my cello again in April which means ANA (All Nippon Airways). The airline allows me to book a seat for the instrument that is far cheaper than the normal price, so I always call their center in L.A. to make the reservation.
Of course, an expected part of the routine is waiting for the next available agent. But this morning seemed extreme. It took 45 minutes of listening to a loop of their theme song interrupted by advertisements for their credit card and newsletter. I was just about to hangup to catch a bus for a rehearsal at HPAC when I heard her voice on the other end of the line. I told her I needed to book a flight for me and my cello, and then I added that because I had waited for so long, I needed to be leaving in 15-20 minutes (hard deadline to get to rehearsal on time). Would it be possible to make a reservation in such a short period of time?
I felt bad being rushed and didn't want to be pushy with her. It wasn't her fault, but that was the situation. Without missing a beat she apologized sincerely for the wait and said she would try to get it done. And she did. Gracefully and graciously and extremely efficiently. I'm sure she had had to speak with other irritated customers and her service was impeccable. As I gave her my address she recognized me and said she had booked the last flight I took with ANA. She must have been the same woman who had spoken to me about Takarazuka, the women in whom I had heard a touch of homesickness for Japan as she asked about the weather.
As we were closing the exchange, I thanked her and said how helpful she was and how much I appreciated how quickly she was able to book the reservation. I asked if I could have her name and if there was any way that I could send an email to her superiors to let them know what a wonderful job she does. She said, "Oh no, thank you for your kind words, but it's just my job." But as we were really saying goodbye she mentioned her name in case there were any questions about the reservation.
So I sent an email to ANA, partly as a complaint about the wait, and partly as a compliment for her service. It seems unfair that she would have to deal with irritated customers who had just listened to advertisements for 45 minutes despite paying an additional $25 calling fee. I mentioned the long wait, the advertisements, and her wonderful help along with her name. ANA has always exhibited really great service. I'm always very happy to use them, throughout the whole process of travel. The two irritations just seemed strange given their record.
A response came from them about 3 hours after I sent my comments. About five short paragraphs in length, it specifically addressed my comments and suggestions and said they would be passed along to the appropriate departments. It also said that they would inform the worker's superior of her performance and that they were happy to hear about it. It was signed with a specific name, not just, "Your ANA Crew," and even if it was based on a form letter, it did not appear to be. They thanked me for my input. It is the first response to feedback that has actually seemed genuine. It's almost baffling. Companies should appreciate any customer input they can receive. And it actually seems that ANA does. Perhaps there are other evils lurking behind the exterior–as likely there are for any corporation–but in terms of the product, they're doing quite well.
And even more importantly, I got to talk to my friend at the ANA call center, again. I imagine one day, I'll be in L.A. and just stop in and say, Is K there? And then I'll introduce myself as that girl booking flights for a cello from Takarazuka. Thank you for doing a wonderful job. It's very nice to meet you.