Change often comes in incrementally small steps. Inch by inch, the ball gets moved down the field. But, every now and then, someone comes in and throws a deep pass that completely changes the game. Last week, Frontier Airlines announced it has done away with its call center and will no longer be using phone calls to handle customer service inquiries. From here on out, customers of the carrier will need to use webchat, text message, or email in order to communicate with the company. For those of you who think that the future of the contact center — and collections — is not digital and you can still get by only sending letters and making phone calls, you might be on the wrong side of the field.
Frontier made the decision to reduce expenses and help expedite interactions between the airline and its customers while also speeding up transactions. On the phone, agents can only handle one customer at a time, an executive of the airline said during an investor day presentation, according to a published report. The same agent can manage three webchat conversations simultaneously.
“Think about the most sort of obscure question a customer might ask that would take a call center agent many, many minutes to research and find an answer to. The chatbot can answer that very quickly,” said Jack Filene, Frontier’s senior vice president of customers, during the presentation.
Breeze Airways, a start-up airline founded by David Neeleman, who launched JetBlue, is also forgoing a traditional call center in favor of interacting with customers online and via text message.
There are some who will read this and think that it’s one of those cockamamie ideas that sounds good on paper, but will lead to a revolt among customers and the airline will be forced to bring back customer service agents to handle phone calls from consumers. That may be what happens. But being ahead of your time doesn’t mean you were wrong.