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Air New Zealand is increasing its call center staff by hundreds as the airline faces a backlash from passengers forced to wait long waits. The Auckland-based airline faces the same problems as many airlines elsewhere – their ability to handle surges in passenger demands has been reduced during the pandemic. Now that people are flying again, airlines don’t have the back-office infrastructure in place to effectively handle passenger issues.

According to New Zealand media, Air New Zealand will nearly double its call center staff from 250 to 450 over the next two months. As travel becomes easier again, Kiwis want to cash in their Air New Zealand travel credits and get on the move. But as passengers on Air New Zealand and other airlines have discovered, travel credits don’t always work as well as airlines would like.

“Online self-service tools are not designed to handle some of the complexity that we are seeing now as we move through the pandemic and come out the other side. For example, if there is another operator involved or if the customer wants to add additional payment methods, this is where it gets a bit trickier, and they should call,says Leanne Geraghty, Air New Zealand’s Director of Sales and Customer Service.

Not the only airline with call center failures

Air New Zealand isn’t the only airline to find its online self-service systems just aren’t up to snuff when it comes to handling any out-of-the-ordinary issues. Airlines all over the world are trying to move customers online to manage their bookings – it’s much cheaper for airlines to use IT rather than employing real people, but when IT doesn’t not working well or doing the required job, airlines are facing the wrath of customer dissatisfaction.

“I can certainly acknowledge how frustrating this experience will have been for our customers – this level of customer service is not at all what we want to provide,” said Ms Geraghty.

“We are working at full speed to resolve the issue and obtain the appropriate resources, as quickly as possible, and get back to delivering the standard of service that we are proud of and known for.”

Air New Zealand passengers are unhappy with long waits at call centres. Photo: Airbus

An example that Air New Zealand does not want to follow

Air New Zealand passengers are reportedly waiting hours on the phone to speak to someone from the airline, which Leanne Geraghty says is not enough. Across Tasman, rival airline Qantas has offered a masterclass in how to lose business due to its dysfunctional call center arrangements. Qantas call center issues have been a long-standing problem throughout the pandemic, but have mostly been limited to complaints at barbecues and comments on loyalty forums.

But just before Easter, the issue grabbed headlines in Australia, prompting Qantas executives to issue a creeping public apology and promise to make things better. Whether a lot gets done is another matter, but the example of Qantas shows how a problem in a minor part of a large company, in this case customer service provided by a call center, can cause damage to the reputation much more important. This is something Air New Zealand has probably watched from afar and remains keen to avoid this outcome.

Source: news center

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