I tend to be excessive in my praise of good customer service because it is not often that I get to experience one. Just three days ago, I tweeted how happy I was with the Cebu Pacific customer service representative’s (CSR) assistance in cancelling the ticket I booked for my dad and uncle. The CSR also gave me detailed instructions on how I can refund the ticket including what documents and IDs to bring.
I booked the ticket last September 2 but my dad and uncle decided to cancel their trip to their hometown in Bohol because of the earthquake that hit the province less than a month ago. I thought that having listed down the requirements for refund and ensuring that I have all of them with me will make the process easier. But apparently, I was wrong. This morning’s experience turned out to be extremely frustrating.
I was told that the Cebu Pacific office at the Davao airport is the only authorized branch to process refunds in the entire city. Commuting to the airport entails two jeepney rides from where I live. I immediately went to the Cebu Pacific ticketing office at the airport terminal building. From there, I was told to go to the cashier located beside the check-in counters in the departure terminal. I managed to convince the airport security not to keep one of my valid IDs since I need to present both IDs for refund processing.
When I got to the cashier, I immediately knew that I have a problem when the airline ground personnel in charge asked for the passengers’ authorization letter. I realized then that it was stupid of me not to ask the CSR I talked with if I need an authorization letter even if I was the one who booked the ticket in the first place.
I had all the documents the CSR specifically told me to bring, i.e. the e-ticket, payment receipt, and 2 valid IDs each of my dad, uncle, and me. I have everything I needed, or so I thought, EXCEPT for the authorization letter. I asked the person I was dealing with if it would be possible to just email the copy of the authorization letter as soon as I get home. She tried to ask her superiors but apparently the rule is absolute – no authorization letter, no refund.
Part of me was resigned to the fact that I wasted a trip to the airport for nothing. But another part of me wanted to explore ways to accomplish what I set out to do without breaking the refund rules or policies. I asked the staff if they would be willing to wait an hour for me to email them the authorization letter. I would take a cab home and immediately ask my dad to write and sign an authorization letter. The staff and the supervisor both said no. I then ask if I could refund the ticket from other Cebu Pacific ticketing offices more conveniently located near me. They said no. The airport office is the only authorized branch to process refunds.
The supervisor told me that they cannot accommodate my request because in the event that it turns out that I am not authorized to receive the refund, the staff who processed the transaction will pay for the penalty fee. Hearing this made me think that as a customer, it seems that I am untrustworthy until proven otherwise. And they are clearly unwilling to take the risk to prove otherwise.
I do not blame the personnel for implementing the rules. But I think that genuine customer service is about trust and willingness to explore ways to meet customers’ needs. It is about empowering all employees to make every encounter with customer a genuine and pleasant experience. Most times, talking with someone who genuinely cares about how a customer feels can alleviate the frustrations of an unsatisfying experience.