Customer self service is usually just secret code for pushing cost and effort onto the customer, but sometimes it can be “win-win” where the provider saves money and the customer avoids dealing with the dreaded call centre. But I recently had an experience where poor integration leads to a “lose-lose” situation.
Qantas airways offers codeshare flights with its budget subsidiary Jetstar. The booking is with Qantas, the flight number is a Qantas flight number, but the plane is operated by Jetstar. Sometimes these can’t be avoided and I recently had to take this option.
Overall I like online web check-in. It seems to save me time and gives some autonomy over seat selection. When I try this with my codeshare flight, I naturally go to the Qantas website to check-in. The “manage my booking” page offers me the usual facilities, except the “check-in now” button is very hard to find. There is no indication that I’m in the wrong place, perhaps I’m just not looking hard enough, or I’m just dumb.
A call to the Qantas helpdesk confirmed that indeed I need to check-in on the Jetstar website. Thanks for telling me. But – get this – I have to use a special booking reference number that the operator gives me over the phone. The reference number supplied on my Qantas ticket won’t work.
Ok, so over to the Jetstar website and nothing works! I can’t even get in, but apart from blinking at me when I hit “enter” there is no indication of the problem. I call the Jetstar helpdesk (yes, I’m stubborn) and am told to enter my surname in uppercase. Apparently when Qantas makes the Jetstar booking my surname is entered in uppercase and the surname field is case sensitive (why?).
The integration fiasco is now clearer. It seems that when I make a Qantas booking on a codeshare flight, Qantas makes a “proxy” booking in their system and a real booking in the Jetstar system. But all the details given to me refer to the fake booking, not to the real booking. I’m not even aware there are two bookings until I persist with online check-in (which most wouldn’t).
When faced with an integration problem most people take one of two approaches: either make the user experience seamless or allow the stitches to show, but give users the tools to navigate the business process. Qantas/Jetstar just ignores the whole problem and leaves its customers dangling. The result is wasted time and frustration for anyone wanting to check-in early, plus additional cost to Qantas/Jetstar in helpdesk calls.
The solution to this is mind-bogglingly trivial. The “manage my booking” web page could offer me the usual “check-in now” button hyperlinked to the Jetstar site and containing the Jetstar booking reference as a parameter. Hell, they could even uppercase my surname on the way!