In autumn 2012, I was especially interested in customer service e-mails from the the world’s airlines. That September, I spoke at the annual conference of the Worldwide Airlines Customer Relations Association‘s annual conference in Kuala Lumpur.
To get ready, I ran a little customer service e-mail experiment. On Friday, August 3, I sent the same e-mail to six airlines. Here’s what I wrote:
I am planning a trip from [City A] to [City B] on [your Airline] in September. I will be bringing a pair of ice skates with me. May I put the skates in my carry-on bag, or do I need to put the skates in my checked luggage? Thank you.
By the way, the ice skates are just an e-mail ruse. I brought lots of important items to Kuala Lumpur, but no ice skates were in my bag!
The quickest response came from Air France.
Within five hours, I received this e-mail:
Dear Ms. O’Flahavan,
You will need to carry them in your check in luggage.
Thank you for using the Air France E-Services
1-800-99 AF WEB (1-800-992-3932)
Seven days a week 8:00 am to 7:30 pm, Eastern Standard Time
The Air France e-mail is a tidy success. The airline responded promptly, and the agent answered my question. My ice skates must go in my checked luggage. Air France got the e-mail job done.
easyJet sent a detailed, personal response.
On August 5, I received this e-mail from easyJet:
Thank you for considering us for your travel plans.
You need to carry pair of ice skate as hold baggage. You are not allowed to carry ice skates in hand baggage as they are classified as dangerous goods. For information on dangerous goods, please click on the link below:
You can add a hold baggage online or via contact centre or at airport. Payment of the hold baggage fee provides you an aggregate weight allowance of 20 kilos per passenger, not per item. Each hold baggage should be within the dimension of 275cm (length+width+height). For more information on hold baggage, please click on the link below:
I look forward to your travelling with us.
easyJet Customer Services
For several reasons, easyJet’s e-mail is excellent:
- “Simon” uses a warm tone in the first and last sentence of the e-mail. His writing is friendly, and he uses pronouns such as I and you to make it personal.
- He answers my question right up front, in the second sentence, so if I read no further, I’ve still gotten my answer.
- He includes links to detailed information at the easyJet website. This is good writing and smart customer service.
- In the second paragraph, he anticipates and answers my next question. He knows that once he’s explained I cannot put my ice skates in my hand baggage, I am quite likely to ask how to add hold baggage and how much I’ll pay. By answering the question I didn’t ask in my first e-mail, he frees me from having to write to easyJet again.
Malaysia Airlines sent a useful response.
On August 7, I received this e-mail from Malaysia Airlines:
Thank you for your email.
In response to your enquiry, you have to check in your ice skate and this will include in your free baggage allowance. For further information regarding baggage allowance, we suggest you to visit our website at
Malaysia Contact Centre| Global Contact Centre| www.malaysiaairlines.com
Malaysia Airlines Contact Centre : 1 300 88 3000 ( within Malaysia ) +603 7843 3000 (outside Malaysia) Please click at this URL for MAS offices and contact details: http://www.malaysiaairlines.com/hq/en/contact.html
Malaysia Airlines did a good job. They answered my question (“check your skates”) and used friendly wording, if a bit repetitive at the end. They anticipated and answered my question about whether the checked skates would increase my baggage fee. The e-mail would have been better if they had addressed me by name instead of as “Customer,” and if I’d received the reply a bit sooner. Four days is an awfully long time to wait for an answer. In fact, faced with a long wait for an e-mail reply, most customers initiate a costly second contact by phone, social media or, ahem, e-mail.
“But Leslie, you said you sent e-mails to six airlines…”
That’s right. I did. I asked six airlines the same question about whether I could carry my ice-skates in my hand baggage. And the other three airlines, who shall remain nameless, provided the worst possible e-mail service. They did not respond at all!
Want more tips on writing high-quality e-mail to customers? Read these posts:
- If I told you to containerize your branches, would you know what to do?
- Which Online Retailer Does E-Mail Best?
- Avis e-mails to an unhappy customer: From flawed to perfect?
- E-mails about the Epsilon security breach: Marriott got it wrong, but Target and Hilton got it right
- A customer service e-mail from Southwest is about to kill the LUV