Recently, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a report that ravaged domestic airline carriers for the dramatic rise in customer complaints during the first half of 2015. Apparently complaints about airlines soared more than 20 percent during the period. What irked the agency was the fact that U.S. airlines are making record profits this year due to full planes and low fuel prices. Cancellations, delays and misconnections were the most common complaints, followed by gripes about baggage, reservations and ticketing, and yes, good ‘ol fashioned customer service.
Then, in what can be simply categorized as unfortunate timing, Frontier Airlines announced that they were doing away with their toll-free customer service number. And even though the discount Airline said they were going to pass the $160,000 a month they’ll be saving on to customers, Frontier got blistered in the press. Yes, timing was not in their corner but was the criticism really merited?
Frontier isn’t the first big brand to eliminate its toll-free number, and they certainly won’t be the last. Consumer demand for self-service and chat and mobile interaction are slowly rendering traditional customer support models such as 1-800 numbers, even voice, obsolete. The use of automated self-service customer support programs that heavily leverage text messaging, social media, and customized Web portals is on the rise and consumers strongly prefer them. In the Aspect Consumer Index research we did earlier this year, we found that if all channels were equal in terms of privacy and ease of use, the use of chat and SMS would increase 250% and 367% respectively. That’s saying, if a brand provides the right experience on those channels, there won’t be anyone talking on the phone. Well, hardly anyone.