A new Frontier for customer service? Think again

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“At Frontier, we offer the lowest fares in the industry by operating our airline as efficiently as possible. We want our customers to be able to operate efficiently as well, which is why we make it easy to find what you need at flyfrontier.com, or on our mobile app. We also have a chat service available 24/7.”

This is a snippet of the message you hear when you call Frontier Airlines after it discontinued its customer service phone support. No response, not even an option for a live phone conversation. To engage this business, customers must turn to the company’s chatbot, social media, WhatsApp or live chat.

Business leaders make difficult decisions all the time. This one was presumably driven by careful consideration. But leaders also make bad decisions. Unequivocally, this is one of them.

Customer support is a critical pillar for every business’ success. The faster business commerce moves, the easier it is to forget that behind every single purchase, return, question or complaint there is a rich human story. I believe the success of a company’s customer support will become over the next decade the number one measure for its revenue predictability. That’s because in our digitally personalized age, both our expectations for great service and our ability to choose where to spend our dollars have skyrocketed.

Economic slowdowns cause companies to trim costs. Often, reducing the spend on customer support is a go-to strategy. That is why the Frontier news is a watershed moment for the care industry. This is the time for companies to double down on creating great customer experiences (CX)—by building relationships that lead to trust, which leads to enduring loyalty, which leads to repeatable and predictable revenue. Trimming access to customer support by deploying rudimentary automated systems that save in the short term but ruin the human experience is not a savvy way to cut costs; it is a recipe for corporate disaster.

Before other companies consider bending to budget pressures and slashing their customer service departments, let’s dispel some long-held misconceptions about CX so we can get back to the human story behind every engagement.

Misconception 1: No one Uses the Phone

It’s a very popular notion. Problem is, it’s not true.

Thirty percent of customers say phone calls are their go-to way for contacting brands. If you’re older than 65 years, a staggering 85% of you (55 million people) want to talk to companies by phone. Eliminating this form of communication would make companies entirely inaccessible to millions of customers. That is not the “surprise and delight” world of great customer service that I want to live in—it’s the opposite. Already, most consumers believe companies have lost the human touch, and 82% of Americans are asking for it to come back.

Misconception 2: People Will Adapt; They Always Do

Don’t confuse Darwinism with great CX. Ninety percent of CX leaders report customer expectations are at their highest levels in history. Simultaneously, your frustration that customer support has plummeted since Covid is real: from labor shortages to supply-chain issues to booming call volumes, the quality of customer experience is down.

Customers are not adapting. In fact, they’re demanding more. As they should. They expect businesses to adapt, faster; 64% of consumers wish companies would evolve to meet their needs more quickly. For the beleaguered airline industry, customer complaints are up 320% since 2019. That is not a typo. And customers are not waiting around for companies to get it right.

Misconception 3: CX Isn’t a Big Deal

I couldn’t disagree more. But don’t take my word for it—the data is very clear on this one.

Eighty percent of customers say that the experience a company provides is equal to the value of its products or services. This is especially true for consumers younger than 40 years—a demographic that is now the biggest purchasing population in world history.

In fact, 55% of people will stop doing business with companies over bad customer experience. Eight percent are ready to drop a brand after just one bad experience. Like I said, every engagement with your customer is connected to a human story. That means one chatbot snafu, one glitch in the live chat, one grandma stranded in Dulles International Airport and you’ve lost a customer for life. Businesses cannot afford this, and they definitely can’t afford it in this economic climate.

Misconception 4: CX Is Cost Center that Can Absorb Cuts

This is perhaps the greatest misconception of all. Most businesses (40%) see CX as a necessary cost evil. However, the world’s best brands have always known the truth: you’re only as successful as your customers make you. A great customer experience from the beginning to end should be your number one investment.

There’s been a lot of talk about finding our “new normals” in the last two years. This is not one of them. Put people first. The rest will follow.

2 COMMENTS

  1. The additional comment that should be made is that older, retired consumers like me have lots of money and time to spend on travel. I’ve visited over 90 countries and all seven continents with several major trips each year. I often have specific questions that can’t be easily answered by the idiotic chatbot and won’t spend a long time looking for the right search terms to get my answer on the website. I just move on and buy my travel from another provider.

  2. 100% agree, Robert. Brands that choose to alienate segments of their customer base are rarely at the table 10 years later.

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