Amazing, amazing example of customer service (yes, from an airline)
My wife and I wanted to try the life of the digital nomad.
One or two may suggest that, with the common pandemic, this idea was simply mad. However, we wanted to see what traveling abroad and working abroad really meant right now.
The first step was to arrange tours. We chose Lisbon just because we love Lisbon. (That is the rare example of a peaceful, rational civilization in an inverted world.)
Not so long ago, the Portuguese national airline, TAP, established direct flights from San Francisco to Lisbon. This was our chance to avoid flying through another European capital.
We were already fully motivated by vaccines. We had a PCR test scheduled for the day before the flight. There was one small problem: however, the TAP website did not like my credit card.
Three times I tried to fill in the details. Three times the site rejected them, urging me to do the one thing no one wants to do these days: call the airline's messenger service line.
Waiting times can be longer than many times. This can cause the fear to rise above safe flight levels. Still, I wiped out my sleep and sent out the number for the US TAP messenger service. Then I waited, getting ready to watch a movie or two while I did that.
Maybe a minute or two passed, without moving from the other end, when another call came in on my phone. I looked at my screen; it was a Portuguese number.
This was weird. So strange that my first instinct was to believe that it was particularly solemn spam. Still, adding a tinge of faith in humanity, I answered the call.
"Hi, is this Krzzzzzztof?" said the male voice. (My first official name has a lot of z and guttural challenges.)
When I admitted that there was, the man continued, “Here [I was so taken aback I've forgotten his name, so let's call him Andres] from TAP Air Portugal. "
My complaint didn't go away, but I was happy to hear a little more. “Hi,” I replied, as if this were completely normal behavior.
"I see you are having problems with your place," continued Andres. "Your credit card, yes?"
This surprised me a little, as well as a little too real. This was a real messenger service person who contacted me, rather than the other way around. And he wanted me to help.
How was this even possible? How had Andres snatched away my attempt to book a flight? How could I even ask him, when I was so happy that this airline was partially getting ready to solve my problem - using human methods?
It turned out, for the sake of quaint technology, that the TAP site believed I was my wife. The credit card number I was trying to insert was incorrectly linked to her name. Therefore, it was rejected.
Andres quickly fixed this. As we talked, he emailed me our flight confirmation and it was all done within five minutes. It was very charming, and I was embarrassed.
I have no special benefits with TAP. At the time of Andres's intervention, I was not even a member of the airline's regular flight program.
While many airlines use AI to field calls from countless angry customers, this is an example of human e - commerce that was weird because it was unique.
I have no idea if TAP will do this all the time. I do not know how many human courier service representatives the airline employs in Portugal or elsewhere. But this was far from wrong, which, in fact, connects the country as well.
A moment of vanity made me wonder what it would be like if all airlines behaved this way, especially in the US. Then I put my face down and regained consciousness.
One day, AI may perform the exact task that Andres demonstrated as well. One day, one of the benefits of expecting a computer is that problems will be solved before customers become angry.
That day seems far away. That's why the TAP approach here was so amazing.
And here's another weird thing: the flight was perfect on time and no one was angry about wanting a mask.