Heather Harvey is the manager of customer relations at Spirit Airlines. A few days ago, she posted an interesting comment on my site, saying that she had been “tasked with turning our customer perception around.” Spirit gets more than its fair share of complaints, so I wanted to give her an opportunity to explain. Here’s our interview.
Q: What are you trying to turn around?
Harvey: Based on our customer feedback 99.9 percent of our customers are satisfied with our service. My goal is to reach out to that .1 percent and to find out where we didn’t meet their expectations. From what I am seeing – we can get rid of a lot of misconceptions within the airlines by providing our customers with clearer expectations. Spirit Airlines is currently tackling this project.
I want Spirit to be known as the good guys, the ones who offer the total package: safe, on time, a great price, a friendly smile and stress free travel.
Q: What is Spirit’s current reputation for customer service? What would you like it to be?
Harvey: Well, I’ve definitely seen a shift in the last six months. We received more compliments in the month of April than all of 2007. I’ve even seen a shift in your blog. You enabled customers to get directly in touch with me and upper management. I have to be honest, that is the best thing that could have happened to our company. This has been another avenue to communicate with our customers.
Q: I’m happy to be of service. How many queries do you handle from customers in an average month? And what’s your target response time for phone calls, letters and e-mail?
Harvey: We carried 548,605 passengers and the Customer Relations team handled 8,217 pieces of feedback in the month of June. These ranged from simple inquiries on how to print a boarding pass to situations where we messed up. Between the articles, blogs, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, HighFive and the list goes on – we are really trying to keep up with evolving
One thing we are contending with is the consumer expectations of instant responses. It used to be acceptable to once receive a response by mail in a matter of two to three weeks – people now have an expectation of just a few hours when they send an email. This has been a huge challenge for our company. When they do come to us for resolutions – be it phone calls, letters or e-mails they all get
responses within 48 hours. Naturally, postal mail takes additional time to be delivered.
Q: What’s the number-one customer service complaint that you get, and what is Spirit doing about it? What can customers do to make sure it doesn’t happen to them?
Harvey: Great question! The top complaints generally stem from our personnel not bending the rules. For example, we get a lot of requests for refunds on non-refundable tickets. The best advice I can give any customers when flying on any airline is to fully review everything prior to purchasing a ticket – read the policies. This doesn’t just go for Spirit – this applies to any airline you travel on. Also, we try to give customers the tools to avoid unforeseen expenses. Affordable travel insurance is offered in the booking path. Get it! It’s such an amazing little tool!