The low-cost airline is forcing customers down digital channels when they have a problem
Customers traveling with US-based Frontier Airlines can now only interact with a human agent over online chat, with the business ditching its telephone support line.
While customers can also reach out to the business via social media and WhatsApp, no live agents preside over these channels, only bots.
As a result, chat is the only option available for queries that go beyond the simple and transactional.
In a statement given to CNN, Jennifer F. de la Cruz, a Spokesperson for Frontier Airlines, said:
We have found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels.
However, such a statement goes against the results of a poll carried out by CX Today just last week, finding that voice is still the go-to channel for customer service.
Cruz also suggested that customers can now receive support “expeditiously and efficiently as possible.”
Yet, many will worry that this is a Hail Mary attempt to cut costs. Julie Tano-Lawson, Founding Member of Women in CX and a Judge at the CX Awards 2023, is one such person.
On LinkedIn, Tano-Lawson stated:
I’m curious to see the outcome. They are not eliminating human interactions, just the phone channel. I’m hoping the channel choices are based on strong analytics and not just a reduction of costs.
Unfortunately, Frontier Airlines’ track record suggests otherwise. Indeed, the carrier has a reputation for penny-pinching with disregard for the customer experience.
For instance, it charges for seat selection before the flight and measures the dimensions of carry-on bags as customers board their planes.
Yet, the move may free up resources for the business, which struggled immensely at the onset of the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Frontier Airlines received a $2.2 million fine from the U.S. Department of Transportation for “extreme delays” in refunding customers after COVID-induced flight cancellations.
Notably, the airline was the only US-based carrier to obtain a fine, alongside five of its international counterparts.
However, it is not the only airline to ditch voice. Breeze Airways, founded by David Neeleman of JetBlue, also does not offer a voice channel – only Messenger, text, and email.
Perhaps this is a sign of what is to come and yet another signal that the golden age of customer service is over. Yet, many CX professionals were quick to poor scorn over the move.
For instance, Rick Denton, Host of the CX Passport Podcast, stated:
This eliminates any chance I would ever book a Frontier ticket… but my experience is only mine. Will enough customers still value the (in theory) low cost of a ticket to forgo actual human customer service… I know what my bet would be.
There is also an ethical question lingering over the move. How will older customers, unfamiliar with chat tools and messaging apps, receive the support they need?
Of course, there are other airlines for the customers. Nevertheless, freezing out an entire segment based on digital comprehension is slippery at best.
Indeed, customer vulnerability is worryingly high already. Such moves may only fan the flames.