Thursday, February 16, 2012

A wonderfully charming, yet totally inefficient piece of customer service...

I'm sure that you've experienced those moments when the process of doing something that should be simple becomes a struggle. Buying things on the internet, for example, or trying to change your standing order for a utility. We've all been there.

Ros and I are off to Yerevan, Armenia in May for a conference (as you do), and once the dates were confirmed, I was tasked with booking flights. So, having shopped around, compared fares and flight times, I alighted upon Air France as my preferred option (flights depart and arrive at sensible, civilised times).

I go to their website, book the flights, enter the credit card details, press 'confirm' and... a message comes up, telling me that I need to call Air France to confirm my credit card details. But they've gone home for the evening, presumably to sing torch songs and drink white burgundy.

So, I go to bed, girding my loins for hassle in the morning, Air France being one of those state-run monstrosities that so annoy our free market worshipping friends.

Morning comes, and I awake, feeling pretty good. Until, of course, I remember that I have to call Air France...

At precisely 8.00, I dial the number and, having made it past the call filtering, the phone is answered. Not by someone in a call centre at Gatwick, but by a real Frenchman. We exchange pleasantries, before getting to business. He asks me for my booking reference, which I provide. He explains that, yes, my booking has come up on his screen, and that we are travelling to Yerevan, Armenia.

A very interesting place, he notes. I agree, pointing out that, given the new French law making denial of the Armenian genocide an offence, it seems appropriate to go there on Air France. He agrees, and asks what takes me to Yerevan. I explain, which generates more discussion.

Of course, we haven't actually dealt with the reason for my call, but...

My new friend explains that he is bringing up the payments details on his screen, but that this is taking rather longer than expected. We bemoan the technology, blaming Microsoft (as one does), and sharing the irony of tools intended to improve efficiency slowing things down.

But eventually, the screen pops up in front of him, and we go through the process of confirming all of the payment details. When we get to my address, I have to explain Creeting St Peter. He asks where it is, and I tell him that it is a small village in the country, which he seems to like.

It's all very amicable, but I still don't have any ticket confirmation. He's on the case, however, and almost unexpectedly, he says that all is well, and that the tickets are done. We talk a bit more, before I thank him and say goodbye.

A simple ninety second job has been stretched to eleven minutes, enough to drive most people crazy. And yet, I come out of the conversation having rather enjoyed the experience.

Ah well, c'est la vie....
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

4 comments:

Jennie said...

"I'm sure that you've experienced those moments when the process of doing something that should be simple becomes a struggle."

Yes.

Today it was getting out of bed, which after much sobbing, hiding under the duvet, and other assorted drama, finally happened at quarter to 6 in the evening. Clinical depression and anxiety attacks are WONDERFUL sometimes...

It's all my own fault; I spoke to a friend on the phone on Tuesday and told him I was gradually coming out of the bad depressive phase I've been in over winter. Hoist by my own petard.

Mark Valladares said...

Jennie,

Sounds ghastly. Which, of course, it is. So I've sent you a package of general, unfocused happiness by mind transference. Not sure how helpful it will be, but accept it with my best wishes.

* hug *

Jennie said...

* snuggle *

You are lovely.

Mark Valladares said...

Jennie,

Not lovely, just very lucky indeed...

* another hug *