JetBlue crash and burn user experience

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Sounds like a great idea: you buy a JetBlue "All You Can Jet" pass
then get to fly free for a month anywhere you want, any time you want.

But it turns out for me the pass has been a disaster-- and I haven't even flown yet.
The website user experience and customer service have been abysmal.

Bad User Experience: A Fast Way To Lose An Account

The problems started when I used the JetBlue website tool update my JetBlue password. Immediately, something on the JetBlue website broke and started displaying errors that said my account was locked out and disabled. No reason was given.

Why Pay Millions For A Website Then Ignore Email?

So I used the "Help" link to get to a web form to email customer service, and within an hour JetBlue sent a generic reply. It said how much JetBlue values my business, and that someone at JetBlue would read the email in 7-14 business days. So much for valuing my business.

Integration Dependencies Are Hard, So Test Them First

Calling customer service was worse. More than an hour of discussions and hold time later, JetBlue reps got some information: the password change had triggered a bug in the JetBlue website software, which broke an integration dependency between two JetBlue systems.

This triggered the account lock-out, which in turn made the website unable to process any of my flights. This cost me a day of my trip and was just the tip of the iceberg of JetBlue problems.

When Software Fails, Stay In Touch

The reps were unable to fix it, said the problem was affecting many JetBlue customers, and said there was nothing I could do but keep trying all night long to see if the bug had cleared up.

I asked if there was some way to have someone from JetBlue contact me by email or phone to let me know when the problem was resolved, so I could book travel. The rep said no.

Prepare A Backup Process

The booking website is unusable while the account is locked out. There's no way to book a flight, see an existing flight, nor change a flight.

I asked about alternative ways of booking a ticket by phone, email, or travel agent, but the reps refused. The JetBlue Terms and Conditions enforce that the only way to book a flight is via the website.

The reps said there was no backup process for how to help a customer in this situation, and refused to make an exception.

The Magic Phrase Is Mea Culpa

Mea Culpa means "My Fault" in Latin and is an honest way for a company rep to own up to a problem and take responsibility.

However at JetBlue the next day a different rep stated "This is your problem, not JetBlue's problem." That's not a mea culpa, that's blaming the customer. It's doubly bad because the previous rep had already alerted me that the problem affected many customers.

Sanitize Inputs Especially On Brittle Systems

JetBlue software can't handle dashes in phone number fields. That's what the rep working on my account said, trying to explain why my phone number showed up incorrectly on the JetBlue website.

He edited my phone number to remove the dashes in his system, which had the surprising side-effect of re-triggering the original bug, thus causing another account lock-out.

Now the reps say my account will be unusable for seven days while JetBlue IT tries to untangle whatever has happened.

You Can't Fix What You Can't See

Because of the mismatch between systems, when a rep adds notes to my account in one system, the notes are not visible to any rep using another system. This is causing more problems and delays.

For example when one rep conceded to break the terms of service, he added an override note to my account to say JetBlue can book my flights on the phone. Sounds great. But some of the other reps are unable to see this override note-- so they insist that there is no note, they can't help, and they say I'm in error. So they're inefficient, ineffective, and incorrect.

Technical Debt: How One Bug Snowballs Into Bigger Problems

Now nothing seems to work. Different JetBlue representatives seem to have different views of my user data, such as reps saying that I have taken a flight, when I in truth I haven't, and saying that I have two flights departing from the same city on the same day, when in truth I don't.

Each time I call in, each rep has to check multiple JetBlue systems to find all my information. This takes time and the reps are definitely not prepared for these kinds of complications.

The Z-Factor To Keep A Customer: Take A Page From Zappos

When a company has something crash and burn like this account, good companies know to roll with the situation and work in partnership with the customer toward good fair solutions.

JetBlue could help by taking a page from the Zappos playbook. Empower your reps. Enable them to deliver good customer service even during the bad times. Let them escalate to higher ups as needed, coming up with short term solutions as necessary, and alter policy when the policy is the problem.

Zappos has championed this successful approach to customer service and is earning hundreds of thousands of happy customers, building brand loyalty, and generating excellent word-of-mouth recommendations.

Perpetual Phone Scripts Are Spooky

The reps conversations have an eerie feeling like talking with a robot or chatbot. Have you ever tried a conversation with the Eliza artificial intelligence program? All of Eliza's sentences are scripted so they are made of English words, but the sentences don't lead to any coherent idea and and don't lead to any results.

On every service call the reps seem to be following some kind of phone script that is totally unhelpful for solving the problem.

No Refunds Under Any Circumstances

I decided to throw in the towel after 30 service calls, no working account, and no flights. I described all the problems to a rep in extensive detail, said I was so frustrated with JetBlue that I never want to fly on the airline, and requested a refund of the $500 purchase price. The rep quoted JetBlue's policy: "no refunds under any circumstances".

I escalated to Crew Services. These reps had me on the phone for two hours while discussing the various bugs and aspects of my account and coordinating with all the JetBlue departments. Same answer: "no refunds under any circumstances".

When Customer Service Goes Underwater

Customer service burns money fast. When customer service burns more than the customer paid, this is known as being "underwater" because the company is losing money on the purchase. In this case, being underwater is a lose-lose-lose position for the company, the reps, and the customer.

Negative Publicity in the Blogosphere-- Does It Cut Through Red Tape?

Negative publicity can sometimes cut through red tape if it reaches the attention of someone higher up at a problem company. So here are keywords for publicity-monitoring services: JetBlue problem, JetBlue failure, JetBlue sucks, JetBlue disaster.

HackerNews and Reddit Replies?

If you are caught in a similar bind with JetBlue-- or know someone at JetBlue who may be able to help-- then please feel free to contact me or send this post along. My email address is joelparkerhenderson@gmail.com

Follow Ups

Here are emerging details and suggestions from readers.



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