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Travel App's 'Customer Service Nightmare' Sums Up Biggest Cx Challenges of 2020

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Brooke Lynch

Customer Service Agent

Businesses faced unprecedented challenges this past year; as we continue into 2021, we can hopefully learn from our mistakes. Although we cannot change the course of our actions, and we might not have been prepared for the circumstances, we can always look back to see how organizations have grown throughout the pandemic.

To break down some of the biggest issues customer service teams faced this year, we can look to the hardest-hit sectors, like travel. In a recent example, TechCrunch reported on a resounding ‘customer service nightmare’ surrounding the travel app Hopper. The conflict, regarding airline credits and refunds, has inspired customers to voice their concerns through over 500 one-star reviews. Like many, the company struggled with a massive increase in call volume; leading Hopper to make a few mistakes along the way.

In looking at this example, we can see some of the most prominent challenges businesses faced on the customer service front. The app left some customers disappointed, but this case study offers us valuable insight to prepare for a successful new year. 


Customer Confusion

To give a better understanding of the Hopper app, there are various methods to book a flight; you can choose to book directly or browse a booking site for deals. Rather than searching every site individually, customers can use booking services to compare each flight on a given date. Hopper then uses historical data to provide customers with a calendar highlighting the best dates to travel for less. 

This is all great for booking, but it can become a problem if you need to cancel or modify your flight. Since you are not booking with the airline directly, there may be confusion about how to make changes. Before the pandemic, this might not have been a huge issue for travelers, but once individuals were discouraged from travel altogether, many were left rearranging or canceling their flights.

In Hopper’s case, customers were unsure about the process, leading to frustration and anger. The app is technically the middle man, and although they can assist you with any changes, customers can also reach out to airlines for refunds and modifications. When airlines don’t offer refunds, the app can’t cover the cost. This led some to feel misled and confused by the platform. 


Lack of Customer Service Response

All of this caused difficulty, and a lack of response from the company compounded the confusion. Some customers waited over a week to hear back from the company, if they could even reach support at all. Complaints of a missing phone number gave customers the impression of a lack of transparency. Throughout this, the company assigned agents the task of actually working on the refunds instead of talking to customers. It even went so far as shutting down phone lines when it saw callers were spending upwards of 45 minutes on hold. 

It’s understandable that Hopper decided to prioritize resolutions in the moment, believing it would help customers in the long run. In retrospect, however, the company didn’t anticipate its customers’ need for transparency and clear, effective communication. People were already facing so much uncertainty and stress in their lives; any acknowledgment would have helped put their minds at ease. Ultimately, Hopper needed to recognize their issues to provide assurance of an eventual resolution. 

Additionally, Hopper complicated the issue by furloughing staff to focus on AI assistance and self-service, right as volume was surging. Although it was helpful in rebooking and schedule changes, AI still couldn’t provide the one thing Hopper’s customers really needed: human support.

With this development and the biggest concerns of the pandemic in the rearview, the company says it will increase support team capacity by 75%.


Where Customer Service Fell Short

This example shows us just how important customer service is to the bottom line. Unique concepts and technology only go so far when crisis ensues. Although we couldn’t have predicted a pandemic, businesses that prioritized continuity planning were significantly better off for it. Considering the ‘what if’ can be the make or break moment for a company’s success in high-pressure situations. Brands that prepare for every possible scenario will be far more equipped to thrive in difficult times than companies planning for business as usual. 

Customers’ frustration with Hopper also reminds us to analyze the purpose behind customer service. There’s no doubt that Hopper was working tirelessly to resolve customer issues; the problem lied more in the fact that the company neglected to appreciate customer intent. At the end of the day, customers weren’t just looking for a refund or resolution. They needed a human element; some kind of affirmation from the company to show that their issue mattered and that Hopper was doing everything they could for them.