Lufthansa Lost Customer Focus

About a year ago, I had an experience with Lufthansa that made me really sit and think about the customer experience and how companies need to focus on the results, not the process.  Process at the expense of the results is about as anti-agile as it comes.

I was trying to buy a ticket on for an upcoming trip to Europe, and after selecting the flights, picking seats, entering all my information, signing up for Miles & More, I get this:

Lufthansa - Cannot ProcessWhile this normally would not be a big deal, I was trying to get this ticket purchased that weekend due to scheduling and financial reporting cycles.  The first time I received this error, I called my bank to check and make sure they were not blocking the charge on my credit card.  They were not, so I called an 800 number given in the error.  (The first time I got a US number to call).

I called the customer support and they informed me I could purchase the ticket over the phone for a $20 fee.  I asked if they would waive it since I was trying to do it online but their website was preventing it.  I was given an 800 number to call for “tech support”.

I called the new 800 number, just to have a recording saying they were open M-F 8-6 EST.  And it hangs up.  Well, that was not helpful.

I called back the customer service number and he offered to give me the support number in Germany.  Honestly?  You are trying to save me $20 on a ticket by spending at least that to call a tech number in Germany?  That makes 0 sense.

We checked the flights and all, and the prices were good except for the $20 fee.  I asked to have it waived again.  He said he couldn’t do it since I would have to call tech support and get a code from them in order for customer service to waive the fee.  He did offer to ask his supervisor for permissions since it was obvious I had tried online.  I knew all the flight numbers and seats I wanted.  This phone call probably cost Lufthansa nearly $20 just trying to convince me to pay it.

He came back on the line and said his manager would not authorize it without a code from tech support.  I am flew to Europe in Business class and ready to pay and we were still talking about the $20 fee that is only applicable because of technical problems on their website?  This is a loss of focus.  I was not trying to circumvent the process, and I could prove it with the screenshot.  Empower your employees to make the decision, for 1/4 of a percent of the ticket price, to make a customer happy over a technical issue outside of their control.  Zappos is famous for this type of empowerment and it shows.  Their customer service is focused very squarely on the customer experience.

Jessica really wanted me to fly Lufthansa since she had such a great experience on the carrier a while back, otherwise I would have gone right back to oneWorld and booked British Airways / American Airlines.  I eventually did complete the purchase, online, the next day.  Looks like they were just having problems.

The flights were great and I really enjoy flying Lufthansa and have flown them several times since.  However, let’s not loose sight of the important things here my German friends. Your site had problems.  Your support system is not available on weekends. Look past the process, and realize the way the process, and its failing in this case, affect the customer.

This is a good lesson, and one I continue to think about.  Don’t lose focus on what matters.  The customer does not care how many issues you have in WIP, they only care about how long it takes to get through to the deliverable.  The customer does not care about your site’s technical problems, they only want to purchase a ticket.  At the end, remember to not loose perspective on what matters.  Focus and perspective will ensure a successful product.  And a happy customer.

Featured image by Jessica Meinzer