When spin fails in customer relations – a case study with El Al

All of us have set answers when faced with a difficult question from a customer. Most of us know that every so often, it is worth ditching the blurb and just saying sorry. So, when a large company ignores that rule, effectively just laughing at the customer, you just feel that you want to get annoyed.

Take my situation early last Friday, checking in at the airport. Over the years, I have liked to fly with El Al. They may not get everything right, but you can see the staff trying.

Once past security, I had to weigh my bags and obtain a boarding pass. I was clearly over the limit of 22kg, but an extra 5 kg had never bothered the airline in the past.

The young clerk, with a bright and pleasant smiled, explained that I would have to pay an excess fine. I was stunned, and without raising my voice, expressed my displeasure.

She repeated her smiled, stood her ground and then launched into a long and embarrassing explanation. She told me that I had made the choice to fly with El Al and that I knew the conditions before agreeing to purchase the ticket and that……… As you can imagine, her smile did finally disappear during this gust of corporate patriotism.

I went away. I shifted a few items into my hand luggage. I returned to madam, who allowed me to be 2kg overweight, thus directly contradicting her own rules. In parallel, she tried to reassure me again that she was right.

When she eventually she understood that I felt that it was too early to argue over the matter, she halted the flow of words, professionally finished her work, politely handed me my boarding pass and we parted company. Meanwhile, in the line next to me, another assistant was repeating the same mantra. Thanks goodness for El Al training manuals, chapter 7, section 8, para 3.5

However, I felt yucky. Madam Smilely assumedly felt triumphant. And El Al may be losing a customer.

Let me be clear. Her facts were correct. And she was definitely within her rights to charge for excess. No argument. BUT…………..

For decades, El Al have not charged me. Why now? Why a change of policy? Could El Al not invest 5 lines of time and explain the new policy on the ticket, in advance? 

El Al is the dominant airline at that airport. How about a few signs to warns of the decision to enforce the rules?

Bottom line, El Al was technically correct but they were definitely not right. They were wrong, and the clerk did not have the grace to admit it. It hurts me to write but the more I thought about her smile, the more I felt how it lacked some of its value.

As for me, I just felt that I was being exploited for a little bit of extra potential profit. I wonder who I will fly with next time.

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One Comment on “When spin fails in customer relations – a case study with El Al”

  1. Joe Says:

    I once was gold frequent flyer, flying at least once a month, only with EL AL. I got such abuse. But the worst was in Newark. I arrived for my flight back to Israel and the goyish corporate travel agent (who hated El Al) had booked me a good log seat. But when I arrived I was squeezed between 2 seats in the middle row. I asked for the ground manager to reassign my ticket but she proceeded to yell at me. Finally she told me that it was my travel agent’s fault and that she would explain to my travel agent what to do. I gave the phone number of my travel agent and the flight manager complained about me to the travel agent, who came back to me and told me everything and tried to convince me not to fly with EL AL.

    When I got back, i filed a complaint at customer’s service of EL AL and very quickly they got the ground manager to call me back – but no compensation for the inconveneience.

    Now I called up my contact at customer’s service about your letter and they only have a recording with a promise to get back to you in 21 days!!!!!!!


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