Amtrak meet US Airways, US Airways meet Amtrak

Due to a change in priorities this week, I found myself with a return flight from Philadelphia to Chicago and a train ride from Wilmington, DE to New York – both of which I needed to cancel. I approached the task of cancelling the trips and getting refunds with an appropriate level of anxiety.

For Amtrak I logged onto the website and retrieved my reservation by typing my email address and the reservation code from my ticket. I was then very simply able to cancel my reservation for a full and immediate refund with the click of a single button (maybe there was a ‘you sure about that?’ button also). In fact, before I had the chance to log off the Amtrak site an email confirmation had arrived noting the full amount of the refund. Result – one highly satisfied customer.

The US Airways website, once I had similarly provided the booking code and date of travel, informed me that I would have to use a telephone to modify my booking. I assumed that this was because I had already checked in and had a printed boarding pass for the outward leg. I navigated the reasonable IVR system and I noted that my details were actually passed along to Mary, the very nice rep who greeted me by name and dealt with my request quickly, politely and accurately, informing me that my fare could be cancelled for a full refund up until the gate closes. Mary then gave me the good news that my refund would be with me in 7-10 days.  Result – one somewhat satisfied but slightly nervous customer.

At the conclusion of my de-travel arranging I noticed that both companies could learn a customer experience lesson from each other. Ignoring, for a moment that both Amtrak and US Airways needed me to tell them about my reservation after I’d logged into their secure web-sites (you know who I am!), they both seem to be missing a trick the other has learned.

Amtrak, it has to be said, is fantastic to their customers who are cancelling their travel plans. Refunds are immediate, in full, and bookings can be altered until the conductor sings ‘all aboard’. But I wonder, how much additional revenue could Amtrak gather by selling non-refundable tickets for a lower price and with a suitable advance booking?

US Airways, on the other hand, could earn kudos (and this applies to most all airlines, I’m sure) if they allowed customers to do online what they can do via the call center and post refunds immediately rather than making customers wait for over a week to get their money back. I noted that US Airways lists a special number for their refund status line.

Both would earn brownie points if they could integrate their back end systems so that they can tell me what reservations I have with them, rather than the other way around.

A rather simple example of how companies can learn good practice from others in their industry or sometimes more profoundly, from across industry. If you believe your Customer Experience can be improved by leveraging insights from across industry, give us a call.

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