John Romantic is the director of customer relations and central baggage resolution at US Airways. But he’d prefer that you simply think of him as your advocate at the airline. For the last nine months, he’s had the unenviable job of improving the carrier’s checkered reputation for customer service. I asked him how he’s doing it.
Q: I’ve been hearing a lot of buzz about some of the changes within US Airways, when it comes to handling customer service questions. And I’ve seen a marked decrease in reader complaints. What are you doing?
Romantic: We are doing a lot, and we’re glad there is a buzz starting.
My goal when taking my position nine months ago was to transform customer relations from a complaint resolution center into a customer advocacy center. Better said, while we handle customer inquiries, we also need to globally understand customer sentiment and use all of that data to look at our product, policies, and processes. Our focus is to find ways to be easier to do business with.
Romantic: We code 100 percent of the customer responses we receive, and have created better reporting from this data. We have established an executive steering committee which meets regularly with the primary focus of understanding our customers’ feedback, and finding ways to improve our customers’ experience resulting in reduced complaints. The work of this team has lead to several recent changes – with some still in progress.
We realize we have a little more ground to make up on customer complaint rankings, but our actions are starting to close the gap with our competitors.
Q: How many requests does your department handle in an average week? Can you break it down by phone, fax, letter and e-mail, please?
Romantic: The actual number of requests varies by time of the year, load factor, peak and off-peak times. But the current breakdown is 91 percent handled via e-mail, 5 percent via phone and 4 percent via fax or written correspondence.
Q: What’s the best way of contacting US Airways when you have a problem with a flight?
Romantic: The preferred method of contacting US Airways is to use our Web form on the US Airways Web site under “Contact US”. The data provided by the customer on the Web form enables us to assign the issue to the best person available in customer Relations to handle the request.
It is also the most expeditious method of contact in that it allows the representative to complete any research before responding to the customer.
Q: What’s your average response time? Do you have performance targets for responding to customers, and if so, can you tell me what they are for inquiries by phone, fax, letter and e-mail?
Romantic: We publish a response time of one to three business days. But to be honest with you, I get a little excited when our response time climbs above one day. We are looking to improve upon that metric by looking at more technology to improve productivity and respond more quickly.