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Where's My Luggage? When Your Contact Center Can't Deliver

When flying to Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport recently, I certainly wasn't looking for material for a story about how an airline's systems were so siloed that they got in the way of the enterprise mission, namely delivering passengers and bags -- but that's exactly what I got.

Upon arriving in Rome, we weren't surprised that our luggage was missing since a storm had disrupted ground operations and, apparently, prevented our bags from being loaded at Chicago's O'Hare. So we filled out lost luggage forms, figuring the bags would be easy to spot. We're premiere passengers, so the airlines had marked our bags with bright red and fluorescent green tags emblazoned with a big "S."

The next day, and for the following five days, we dutifully checked the Web site as instructed by airline personnel for updates on the status of our bags.... but the "unknown" status never changed. Our premiere status ensured that customer service answered my calls quickly. Agents were sympathetic as they checked various systems, but couldn't locate our bags.

On day four, I started tweeting. This immediately generated a response from the airline. Again, I checked the Web site as directed. And, again, well-meaning agents called me, but still I had no bags. Day six finally brought my bags but not before I received three contradictory messages: One agent told my hotel that my bags would arrive in two days; another agent told me a courier was on its way with the bags; and, of course, the website still said "status unknown."

My vacation was nearly ruined because the airline's contact center exists in a communications silo, separated from other core business processes. In my case, the baggage systems weren't connected to the contact center. Why couldn't airline personnel scan the luggage tags on my bags, which no doubt were sitting in a lost baggage storeroom somewhere, then access my contact information from my lost bags report and trigger an outbound notification to me and the customer support center conveying the status?

This is a perfect example of why organizations need to create an omnichannel experience for customers. It's not just about smoothing out the customer relationship, as in this case no amount of personal attention from the customer service silo could overcome failure to address the primary concern -- getting passengers and their checked bags to an intended destination on the same flight. Metrics on contact center agent performance are irrelevant if the problem remains unresolved. Taking an integrated approach that combines business processes (ERP and CRM) with all channels of communications facilitates an omnichannel focus on addressing customer needs.

My personal journey was a nightmare, reminiscent of the late '80s John Candy and Steve Martin classic, Planes, Trains and Automobiles.

You can do better for your customers.

(In case you're wondering, several weeks after we returned home, the airline reimbursed us in full for items we needed to buy during the time our luggage was lost. Its great service is much appreciated, and the people I dealt with did the best job with the tools they had available. But I sure hope they get better tools in the future.)