After nearly two years since their initial merger, American Airlines and US Airways officially became one airline on Saturday. And after a million hours of training and more than 9,000 tests of kiosks, the airline is facing the last remaining hurdle where mergers are concerned: going live with their combined reservations system.
The reservation system, which stores vital information, including flight schedules, pricing, the number of available seats, and baggage-tracing data, can wreak havoc if the switch doesn't go smoothly.
Take the March 2012 United reservation cutover, for example, which had the old Continental site pointing to United.com. On the morning it went live, the system froze under the weight of new inquiries and passengers flooded the contact center with calls--too many to answer.
Whether the system works smoothly or not, American will use the transition as an opportunity to win customers or drive them away by not responding appropriately to their issues as they arise. As snafus happen, here are three tips to help win over new customers.
1. Show empathy
The new airline reported that it increased staffing 20 percent on Saturday alone to deal with issues as they arise. There should be ample personnel at ticketing and at the gates to be supportive when passengers encounter problems. A simple, "I'm sorry, we are here to help" goes a long way in calming angry passengers.
2. Empower employees
When airline passengers need help, they need it quickly. Telling someone who's waited for 20 minutes in one line to move to another line where the manager can better assist him will only further offend customers. Instead, allow all frontline employees to make quick decisions on behalf of the customers. In return the airline will more quickly diffuse escalating situations, get positive word of mouth, and also have happy employees in the long run.
3. Monitor social channels 24/7
Scorned passengers are more likely to vent via channels like Twitter, Tripadvisor, and Facebook. Don't stand on the sidelines while angry customers air their grievances for all their followers to see. Make sure your social team is well staffed and prepared to respond to remarks in real time and avoid sending generic, automated responses. That will only further aggravate the situation.