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Kiely: Analysis of customer service response


Kiely: Analysis of customer service response


Formal response to Qantas

To: Marianne Hedl,
Executive Communications,
Customer Care Executive,
Qantas Airways Limited.

Dear Marianne,

Thank you for your reply. Did Geoff see my note? Can you ask him these questions for me?

  1. Does he reply personally to any customer communications addressed to him?
  2. Has he heard the old story about the cockroach letter?
  3. Do all customers complaining of the same issue receive the same letter?
  4. How long has it been since he flew economy class? (10 years? 20 years?)
  5. Does he ever eat the food served in economy?
  6. Does he have to play elbow scrummaging for the arm rest?
  7. How can narrower seats be more comfortable? (Is Geoff a fan of Monty Python?)
  8. Will the refurbished aircraft feature more legroom? (One centimetre? Two centimetres?)
  9. How does Qantas decide how much space there will be for the economy class passenger? Does each technician
  10. sliding the seats closer together wear an executioners hood?


Michael Kiely

PS. ‘The cockroach letter’ is an old story about a man who had encountered a cockroach in his hotel room. He wrote a letter to the management and received what he felt was a thoughtful reply that strongly stated their regrets and determination to address the problem. Then he noticed a memo in the envelope. It said, ‘Send this pain in the ass the cockroach letter.’

Dude, economy is economy

A ‘Thought A Day’ email…


Jay, one of your fellow ‘Thought A Day’ recipients, replied that he thinks I am being unreasonably hard on Qantas. You might think so too. Here was my response to Jay’s note:

You are so right, Jay. I am being unreasonable. When we paid a pittance for our tickets we knew what we were in for. But the collective sense of misery in that cabin was something to behold. Toyota would never inflict it on customers, even on the most economy of economy buyers. It’s not in their nature. Ford’s marketing staff used to have their cars serviced at the factory in Campbellfield. They never entered a dealership as a customer, so they didn’t know how bad things were. Holly Kramer changed that when she was director of marketing, and consciousness of the customer experience started to seep into the corporation. Even Qantas flight crew fly business class when relocating for a shift. I guess what started as a bit of a joke has developed into a demonstration of how a fine corporation can act like a machine from the customer’s point of view. I think it also demonstrates how dangerous it is to ignore the danger signals. I told the company I was sharing their response with you and the list of 450 readers, as well as the world via my blog. They obviously did not read my note. We live in a viral world, a dangerous world for service companies. I am waiting for Qantas to react in a human way, with or without Geoff.

Am I being unreasonably unreasonable?



Managing expectations

Another ‘Thought A Day’ email…


The Qantas Poll currently stands at 10 percent ‘Unreasonable’; 85 percent ‘Go Get ‘Em’. (Five percent ‘Whats happening?’). So, continuing the lessons learned from this exercise (it’s like a field trip into Customer Experience Land, isn’t it?) Big Company had an opportunity to identify a case of ‘complaint’ that required individual attention, to engage the customer and give them the sort of response they expected, and failed. Now the problem escalates, and leaks into the blogosphere where it becomes a permanent part of the online brandscape, accessible easily via Google. If they mishandle their response to this phase, the result in many cases could become a ‘www.F—Qantas.com’ or ‘www.QantasSucks.com’ site of the type attracted by McDonald’s and other multinationals. (Lesson: Make sure your company has bought every combination of URL of this type to block their use by feral activists and disgruntled customers. Do you think Qantas owns QantasSucks.com? Go check it out.) The overall lesson of this excursion has been the importance of managing expectations. In the US they warn you, “Its gonna be soooooo bad…” before you get on the plane so that you’re pleasantly surprised that the hostesses don’t spit at you when you’re boarding…

Geoff, if youre reading this, it’s not personal. We’re just observing your company’s behaviour, like entomologists would. (From the point of view of the insects.)



The phone rings


“We’re not going to answer your questions,” said a pleasant voice on the telephone. It was Marianne Hedl, Executive Communications, customer care executive, Qantas Airways Limited. Marianne read to me a section of their procedures manual that described how all complaints were reported ‘high up’ in the organisation – to the board, no less – in aggregated form. The same day I got this one line email from Malcolm, a friend and ex-colleague: “May I ask what sort of response you were expecting?” I’ll tell you a story. I once wrote a lot of letters to companies, suggesting ways they could improve their marketing and advertising, hoping to get noticed and break into advertising. One afternoon the telephone rang and it was Brian Walsh, the managing director of David Jones. He made it “there’s no other store like David Jones”. I asked him did he respond to many letters. “All of them” was his reply. He also insisted that his management team spend time every Friday behind a cash register. He could identify a DJs shopper at 500 paces. It was not long after this that Waters & Peterman made “Management by walking around” a watchword. The book they wrote was In Search of Excellence. David Jones was an excellent company. Is excellence a relic of the 80s? Geoff, Google ‘Qantas Sucks’. Your customers and your staff are talking about you. “Where’s Geoff?” they wonder.


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