In the third week of December 2013, I happened to be at the receiving end of a worst-in class kind of customer experience from Emirates Airlines – which is rated the best in world for the year!

I was in a transit in Dubai on the way from Sao Paulo, with a 2-day stay over on the way back to India. I found both my checked-in baggage missing when I arrived in Dubai on a late evening after a 14-hour long-hop flight, along with 4-5 other passengers who were in the same situation. The horrible customer experience that I had to face, was related to this incident.

So rather than looking at a customer aggravation perspective (sure, I was aggrieved!), would analyze the bad practices that were observed, from a customer service and service management perspective.

Here are some of the bad practices from the world’s best airlines that customer service organizations would want to avoid:

  • Other than a mechanical apologies statement, the whole behavior of the baggage counter gave the customer as if this was business as usual. No real connect with the customer and his ‘inconvenience’ at all. A filled form, receipt and promise to deliver ‘as soon as possible’, and a (paid) call center number to call to get updates – the responsibilities of the provider ended there.
  • Absolute NO update to the customer even after 24 hours delay in tracing the baggage.
  • A website for status update that is never updated even once in 36 hours from the complaint.
  • A paid call center phone line that indicates a 2-4 minute wait time , but not picked up even after 25 minutes hold time.
  • A call center which only allows call in, promises call back with update and never bothers after that.
  • Even though the baggage has reached the local airport after 24 hours, not bothering to call customer even once – even when customer is repeatedly calling the call-center to get hold of the baggage. The first call to me from the airlines with any update on the luggage was after more than 36 hours.
  • Behaving as if it is customer’s fault – and show all your arrogance when customer comes over to collect the baggage. (I was told that I should have carried enough material in the cabin luggage – rather than complaining about ‘inconvenience’. Such a valuable advice!)
  • Try to find a way to avoid any sort of compensation to customer.  And quote company policies to kill any sort of discussion with customer on the same. (I was told initially that Airlines policy doesn’t allow any compensation for delays lesser than 24 hours. Then indicated the compensation is only $50 for every completed 24 hours of delay. Since my delay had only one cycle of completed 24 hours that was my entitlement).
  • Have a twitter handle that gives NO response to customer tweets addressed to them.
  • Have a customer complaint email (customer.affairs@) that just sent an almost-automated acknowledgement after few days and no response even 10 days after that.

I know many of you who are reading the above would be surprised and even think that there are points exaggerated here. I was also (unpleasantly) surprised by such a set of bad practices from such a well-known international carrier – where as I had much better handling of such situation by smaller airlines in the past. Many of my colleagues and friends also found it difficult to believe my experience, but it is true.

I hope there are some part of the Airlines organization who are still concerned about the customer satisfaction, and hope either my email or this note will reach them in some manner. I am not expecting any kind of further action/closure from the Airlines for my experience as a customer; but as a service management consultant with a special attention on customer service, it pains me to see good service providers stooping in their standards.

When you are voted as the best by the customers, your responsibility increased many fold. It is your greatest challenge to live up to the increasing expectations and provide even better experience. If you enjoy the praise and let it affect your attitude, then it is a sure recipe for doom in a very short-term!