By Hervé St-Louis
Oct 21, 2009 - 8:46
Companies like Westjet built their reputation and their sales on “good customer service” and are proud to share stories about how they “helped” many customers and so on. Yet when one of their employees treats a customer badly, it’s never Westjet that did it. It’s the employee. Why does Westjet accepts and claims the credits when it makes them look good and rejects the blame when it makes them look bad?
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This was as big a job as can be imagined for a business that is pretty much all automated. Pretty much every one of the 7,000+ employees has been undergoing retraining for this switchover, starting in July. It's like learning a new language.
It can not be accomplished off line and then magically switched over. That only happens in Hollywood.
Unfortunately, your issues all occured in the cutover weekend.
My guess is that WJ will make sure that anyone that suffered inconvenience over the weekend will be compensated.
That's more than I can say about Canada's other airline. I'm still waiting for compensation for a flight they cancelled in mid Dec 2008...
They are not even accepting calls now, it just says to Try again later as they are busy......I know they are working on a new system but to now turn away customer calls....they are now losing customers.
I am more intrigued, however, at how quickly bloggers jump to Westjet's defense.
Tim McAteer is SO loyal to Westjet that he knows the exact dates of the computer outage, how many employees Westjet has, that the switchover needed to happen online (unless one's airline is based in Hollywood) and that learning a new computer system is like learning a new language.
jmw knows how many awards Westjet has won and is aware that Westjet's "procedure" in Quebec is to run French announcements first. He even knows that Boeing has designed the 737 so that announcements are amplified once the engines start.
These Westjet customers are quite well informed indeed. Which begs the question to Tim and jmw...how long have each of you been employed at Canada's #2 airline???
I for one get kind of tired of them telling us how amazing they are every time they do something good.
Several years ago one of their employees was stealing reservation information from Air Canada. Last Christmas they gave away a few slices of pizza to stranded travellers and needed to put out a news bulletin to tell us how generous they were. And, of course, they "care". That, by the way, is only because they are "owners" - I guess if someone else held the shares they may feel less inclined to help the customers.
Maybe Westjet may now be a little more understanding when other airlines face a few operations hiccups of their own.
Welcome to humankind, Westjet!
Maybe think about flying with Air Canada, have your plane cancelled, be abandoned for 5 days without a place to stay and then never receive the compensation they promised you 16 months ago. This is exactly what happened to me.
When Westjet cancelled by flight last month I was given my entire ticket back.
You tell me which one sounds better.
Tim M. (don't know his affiliation) is correct in that we changed essentially our computer backbone this week - unlike Frontier which I heard had to cease operations unexpectedly when they did the same thing, we kept planes in the air. There were many inconveniences and it stretched all of us - the folks in the call centres and the front line Customer Service Agents were the hardest hit, even the most relaxed people become edgy when faced with delays and many folks behave like boors in ways that would shame their mothers. So you were probably the victim of someone who had walked through the flames a few times already that day - excusable? No. Understandable? Absolutely.
I have many friends who fly for AC and I think it is a great airline, despite the poor characterizations here and there, so I'll NEVER slag them. Nonetheless, at WJ - we really do care and do our best. We eject folks who don't. Who cares why we care, as long as we do? It is a bonus when a company can align its profit motive with a humanistic motive, and yes, we deserve to brag about that, and the fact that we hand out pizza in crappy weather - not everyone does.
I'm a WJ pilot speaking on my own behalf. We really do care and are working hard, hard, hard to improve our French. Unlike Montreal-based, decades-old AC, we are new and western-based. No mkajor changes happen over night. WJ always prefers rewards of the market vice the whip of the government - that is just being a good business.
Apologies for the service 21 Oct - it was indeed our changeover to a reservation system - HUGE change which we actually managed better than others have. Your treatment, though understandable by a likely frazzled agent, was not cool at all, but understandable in retrospect.
At least pizza was handed out at Christmas - others didn't fare as well. I'm not slagging AC, I have tons of friends who work there and I like the airline overall. Many great people there.
It is fantastic when any business can align its business motives with humanistic motives: "we care". This is indeed something to celebrate!
First off. Regarding Bogden's comments. I think it's very ignorant to say comments that you clearly know nothing about as they are severely false! I suspect it's because if I am right, you were supposed to be hired as one of our WJ flight attendants over a year ago but then training was canceled when Boeing went on strike and we didn't get all the new planes we had on order. If that's the case, I think your frustration is understandable but misdirected. If you were actually at the airport to see why we got praise over the Christmas holiday it was because the majority of our staff worked long & hard, even until the early hours of the morning (and after ALREADY WORKING 12HOUR SHIFTS) to help accommodate our guests and spend our own company's money putting people who were stranded DUE TO SNOW STORMS in hotels so they wouldn't be left at the airport. Weather related cancellations have nothing to do with the airline so putting people in hotels and giving them food vouchers is not something we legally have to do! WE DO IT BECAUSE IT'S HUMANE AND WE CARE!!! Unlike "Canada's #1 airline" who left 100's of people angry and with questions unanswered all because their scheduled shift was done for the day! Why don't you speak to someone who booked a flight during the holiday with them and ask them how their experience was!?
Regarding the whole computer change over that we've been going through for one week now. As frustrating as it has been for our guests, believe me, it is even more frustrating for our call centre agents and front line staff. Again many of us are working on our days off and extending our shifts to have as much support for our guests and our team as possible. Trust me! We don't want your wait times on the phone to be taking so long but a lot of it is out of our control. Have we been trained, yes. Is this system & our company perfect? Absolutely not. But I have worked the past 6 of 7 days and I can tell you it is getting better. It's just difficult when the system is constantly glitching and is super slow but there is light at the end of the tunnel. And to give you a little idea of what we're working with, the old system we used up until last week was DOS so although asking our guests to be a little more patient may be asking too much for some, this change over was necessary in order for the company to grow and have working relationships with other airlines. Is this all just an excuse?! No! Your frustration for what happened with the call centre is well warranted. However, you need to realize that person you are on the phone with or face to face with is a human being, not a machine and we are going through an immense amount of stress trying to focus on getting people on planes on time as much as possible and when we're doing exactly what we are supposed to but the computer is still not working right or when you are constantly getting yelled at (no matter what field of work you're in) it makes it difficult to focus & keep that happy attitude. That's human nature!
But I also can't personally speak for each and everyone in the company but with my own personal experience I can proudly say that I care because even after I have rude people yelling at me or calling me names like "F*cking Chink" for no reason I'm still able to come in each day and hold a smile on my face because when I have someone who smiles back and sometimes even tells me we're doing a great job, it's worth it!
In any company there are always black sheep who maybe don't share the vision or CARE that the majority does. I would probably say that 98% of our entire company genuinely care about the people as well as our jobs. Which is more than I can say for the other guys. Don't get me wrong. I have met a few nice Air Canada employees so I don't mean to stereotype but I bet their percentage of employees who enjoy &/or care about their job of passengers is around 10%! Last year alone there was one Sunday that only 3 of their frontline agents came to work when they were supposed to have at least 18 so the check in counter was backed up for literally 4hrs (at least) and when you finally got to see an agent they blamed you for "missing" your flight & basically said you were S.O.L.
And Michael T: WE'RE ONLY #2 BECAUSE WE DON'T RELY ON THE GOVERNMENT TO BAIL US OUT ALL THE TIME!
1-I had to put the comments in moderation last week because they were getting out of hand. There were personal attacks made on me and my family. There were also ethnic slurs directed at Francophones. These, as per our guidelines are not tolerated at The Bin. I don't like to put comments in moderation, but if its starts to get ugly again, I will. Be respectful.
2-Also comments directed at me because I'm into comic books are kind of ridiculous. Don't come and diss people who like comic books on a comic book Web site. It's like dissing football fans at a football game... There's nothing wrong with comic books. The majority of the people who come here also are comic book people and do use air travel to go to conventions.
3-While I don't like when people post anonymously on such sensitive issues, I and the other writers at The Bin clearly disclose who we are, anyone is welcome to post here, whether they disclose their real identity or not. The only thing I have to warn you about, is that anonymous postings are not really anonymous. Don't think that because you're on the Web you can get away with anything or even pretending to be a loyal Westjet customer when you're not. It's quite easy to verify who you are when you come here, and even easier when you post a comment.
4-Being cranky does not mean that one screams and shouts slurs at people. I did not shout or scream at anyone from Westjet. If Westjet could retrieve the recording of the phone call, they could corroborate.
5-Westjet officials have been in contact with me and apologized as well as asked me for more input in this story. They've been great and I thank them for that. I understand that I could get more out of this if I wanted to but I'm not looking for freebies.
Now, I'll just go on with my life and comics.
I have flown both Air Canada and Westjet and am fond of them both. Westjet is a tad annoying (i.e. boarding aircraft like it's a circus, the corny jokes, etc.) but I do agree that most of you are very friendly (although sometimes it seems contrived and not truly genuine). Nonetheless, kudos for doing so well.
HOWEVER...why can't you just be proud of who you are instead of ALWAYS making some negative comment about Air Canada?? Almost every post in here is from a Westjet employee - some of you have said you were employees and it's just plane obvious that most others are too. Almost every post says "unlike Air Canada" and then goes on to say how wonderful Westjet is. I think you have some kind of jealousy towards them. I guess I admire you're pride but you kind of lose favour when you are so bitter
The facts from an impartial flier:
1. Westjet DID steal reservation info from Air Canada - it was a former Air Canada employee who worked for you and one of your executives who knew about it resigned over it. Just Google it and the stories are there.
2. Air Canada actually had a better on time performance than Westjet last Christmas - they just didn't do nearly as good a job as Westjet communicating any successes they had. For some reason they never toot their own horn and just take the abuse...perhaps because Canadians expect so much more from them than they do Westjet.
3. Air Canada was never bailed out by the government. Again, just Google the stories and you will find them. In fact, I believe the government has done better financially over Air Canada than the reverse.
4. It is admirable that Westjet is trying to learn French. Keep in mind, though, that Air Canada doesn't have the luxury - they, unlike Westjet, are mandated by law to be bilingual.
So, Westjet, I like you...I really do. But you just need to be proud of who you are and stop picking on Air Canada. They are a Canadian icon and they represent Canada so stop trying to take that away from them. You guys are a wonderful example of a great Canadian success story and should be proud of that...but you can't become what it took Air Canada 75 years to achieve.
Especially after the effects of the recession, West Jet is one of the few airlines that has still been able to make a profit unlike the majority of airlines. This is something to be proud of for any company.
While my opinions of AC are obviously biase, I do admit that without them we would not be what we are. Every business needs a little competition in order to push yourself to work harder & improve.
Regarding the reservations issue between the two, all the articles spoke of accusations but none (that I could find at least) had any proof stating truth behind it. But in any workplace there's always office politics and I will admit I don't know anything else about the topic.
Thanks again for your comments. =)
Seems like at Westjet Customer service is just an oxymoron.
What happens if the customer needs this information quickly? Seems like a good time to switch to Air Canada.
Can anybody advise me what should I do now?
WE booked a flight on line - they never sent the confirmation. So we called - 2 hours on hold with not even a recording claiming our call was important - when we DID get an agent, we were rushed through the transaction - 3 return flights from WINNIPEG TO OTTAWA for Christmas. They confirmed verbally the flights were booked, quoted us the price that sounded right for 3 return adult flights - then sent the confirmation with ONE WAY FLIGHTS WINNIPEG TO OTTAWA.
We called and emailed and called and emailed for 3 days and 6 hours on hold. I brought it to the attention of what they refer to as the super sales center via email because they provide no other form of communication (at one point the recorded message said there were too many calls and should call back in a few hours). I only ask that we get the price that was quoted to us Sunday (just a couple of days ago) because the agent told us we were booked yet didn't book return flight, yet it becomes our problem.
When we finally got through at 5:30 this morning, we were told it was never booked, had no record, implied it was our fault then charged us $300 more for the exact same one-way flights that was less just 2 days ago.
They won't take our calls, they will not respond to our emails except with an automated reply.
This year alone, I have flown over 30 times with WestJet ... but I guess loyalty and service means nothing to them. No wonder they are losing customers and shares.
Shame on WestJet for claiming to care about service then treating the customer with such indignity ... never once being accountable for the mistakes caused with the implementation of their new reservation system. All they can say is "we know you are frustrated, please be patient".
Beware travelers - this would indicate they just don't care. They want the money, they care about the bottom line regardless of casualties ... and want high profile so they can brag they are Canada's best airline carrier. I ask - based on what criteria?
WestJet made huge strides because of Air Canada's incompetencies - but boy did they get their act together ... WestJet is making Air Canada look damn fine. Never had a problem like this with AC and there is ALWAYS a human being willing to talk to me and help me with a problem. At least they accept the responsibility when they screw up!
Poor planning could put Westjet into a tail spin they never pull out of. To bad they had a great idea, "make the customer feel important"
I was asked to phone the 1-866-720-0088 number to reconfirm my flight.. but can't get ahold of anyone to help me.
On numerous occasions i've been on hold from anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour before giving up and hanging up.
Tonight i put aside time to sit on hold as long as it would take, while watching Sound of Music.
When i first phoned i was told i could be on hold from 1hr08m - 1h48m..so i waited.
At 2h40minutes the phone rang once, and then instantly went to a busy signal.
My call was disconnected.
WestJet has horrible Customer Service!
Here goes: On Jul. 19/10 I traveled from Wpg. to Hamilton on flight #448, leaving Wpg. at 2:30 and arriving in Ham. at 5:45 p.m. The flight was excellent.
I was given consideration for my health - heart and breathing problems...wheelchairs, etc. and given a front seat due to my claustrophobia.
Upon arrival in Ham. the wheelchair had been taken by another passenger. As I was the last one to leave the plane the chair was nowhere to be seen. I could walk down the stairs but not take my carry ons and walk to the terminal. The pilot and flight attendant were right behind me and when there was no wheel chair the kindly pilot stayed with me till he could summon someone to get a chair. I do not remember the pilot's name of course, because it is said so quickly,...anyway, he was great and I want him to know how much I appreciated his concern.
Also, the porter who took me to my baggage loaded my cart at the baggage centre ...I could not have done it alone without straining myself. He was most gracious but I don't know his name.
Also, I enjoy Westjet travel...the friendly atmosphere and concern of the staff.. God bless. sincerly, J. Martha Epp
I thought your slogan was, "we will do all we can to make your trip enjoyable." This was not the case.
I will use Westjet again, but I must say that the service has slipped since my first flight some 4-5 years ago.
I thought you might like to know my frustrations.
Rev. D. Ralph,
President, Christian Salvage Mission