Already a fan and a frequent traveller of the Australian carrier Virgin Australia, I became an even bigger fan last week. Why?
We had a sudden death in our family, which resulted in a massive change in travel plans.
I am sure this situation will sound familiar to many of you. You had things well planned – perhaps a family vacation, a business trip, or some other journey. Your trip was interrupted in some way, shape or form. Perhaps the interruption was an untimely death, as ours, or perhaps you got called back to work due to some sort of emergency. If you have ever made last minute travel plans, you will know the airlines are not very forgiving. In fact, the airlines make a lot of money off of situations of the sort, resulting in hundreds of dollars in change fees per ticket and millions in revenue per year.
In our situation, we called Virgin Australia who changed my attitude about airline travel many years ago and who continue on a journey of customer service each time I encounter the carrier.
The Virgin Australia agent expressed her sympathy to us for our loss. Next, she suggested there would be a change fee, as well as the cost between the airfare paid and the new fare available. I explained the situation, asked her to consider the circumstances, and I requested she find the best options during a series of flexible dates.
The Virgin Australia agent returned to the call by stating she was going to waive the change fee due to the circumstances. She also said she found the same fare on two different dates and this would result in no cost to the traveller.
Moments later we called the American air carrier United Airlines. The agent stated there would be a $300 change fee plus the difference between the purchased airfare and the price of new fare. She said we were welcome to contest the fees and send in a death certificate for proof.
The end result is the United Airlines ticket in hand is virtually useless and in fact it is now likely less expensive to purchase an entirely new air ticket.
The customer service provided by Virgin Australia was a stark contrast to the service provided by United Airlines. I am quite sure United Airlines could have matched the same level of service as Virgin Australia, especially given the loss of life we described and were willing to prove to the agent and to the airline. In the end, the superior experience offered by the Virgin Australia agent gives me an opportunity to applaud the carrier. It also gives me an opportunity to offer United a chance to learn from my Virgin Australia customer experience.
How does your charity’s customer service differ from your non-profit counterparts? What can you learn from the Virgin Australia and United Airlines differences? What will your charity do to be more like Virgin Australia in this instance? Act today. Empower your staff.