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One digital hand not talking to the other

As part of my job I tend to travel a bit, not a lot, but enough so that I actually subscribe to receive email offers from my airline of choice, Qantas.

For those not aware, Qantas has their fingers in a lot of pies. Pies which include things like hotel bookings, life insurance, credit and travel cards. They even have a wine club.

Being a relatively long-term and dedicated Qantas customer, I make use of many of these products and services as they provide me with the opportunity to earn more Frequent Flyer points which allows for upgrades etc.

One product that I make use of while travelling internationally is called Qantas Money, formerly Qantas Cash, which is their travel card product.

Qantas Money is a pre-paid MasterCard and while it is issued by a 3rd party financial institution, it is actually available on to every Qantas Frequent Flyer member as it is built into the membership card.

Members have the opportunity to activate this card and load it with funds in different currencies for use when travelling overseas.

Recently I was required to travel to the US and as such, I kept my eye out for offers that came along. It’s not often that an offer actually works out for me however in this particular case an offer came along that fit perfectly.

The offer was for USD$100 to be loaded onto my Qantas Cash card if I booked a flight to certain airports in the US, before a certain date, and provided I travelled between specific dates.

I was shocked this offer actually lined up perfectly with my travel plans so as soon as the email came in I clicked the button to register for the offer and then prior to the closing date I went about booking my flights.

I was travelling with my partner, who is also a QFF member and so we both registered in order to take advantage of the offer.

The terms of the offer indicated that the funds would be deposited onto our travel cards, 2 to 5 business days after our flight.

We kept an eye on our card balances with great hope of being able to use these funds while in the US and we even converted less USD than we normally would due to the offer.

It is sad to say, however, that the funds never arrived.

So what went wrong?

Officially, I still don’t know and have been unable to get anywhere with the Qantas support team despite trying for almost a month.

Unofficially, I’m guessing that this is a case of one hand not talking to the other and, to be honest, I’m not at all surprised.

Just think of the actors involved in scenes such as this:

  1. The Frequent Flyer program operator who is sending out the offer.
  2. The Airline booking system where the bookings are placed.
  3. The fact that the offer can’t be fulfilled until after the customer has flown the qualifying leg of the journey.
  4. The system that somehow links the offer to the booking in a way so as to issue an instruction to the 3rd party financial institution to load the funds.
  5. The 3rd party financial institution making good on the deposit of funds.

All of these elements need to work in harmony for offers like this to have a chance of behaving as expected. Not to mention the underlying technology and systems.

Did the registration process fail, dooming things from the start? Did the process that checks the journey was completed fail and prevent the settlement of funds from being triggered? Was there a DNS lookup failure or a network router that was running at high CPU and dropping packets? Was the whole thing a sham with no actual automation in place and it was up to a person to get involved for any cases where the offer was redeemed?

I’ve pretty much given up receiving what was promised as part of this offer which is, to say the very least, disappointing.

As a side note, the experience of trying to receive funds available as part of this offer was an experience in its own right.

First of all, they required me to send a screenshot of the email offer which I’d received along with a copy of my ticket for the flight. Really?! It was a Qantas offer and booking, yet I had to send through a copy of the offer email that they sent to me, along with the booking details which they should already know.

Secondly, the Qantas support process was quite painful in general. Throughout the process, each of my emails were assigned a completely new case ID even though I was sure to reply to each message specifically.

The manifested itself in a completely disjointed email conversation whereby an operator would reply to an email with seemingly no knowledge of the previous emails in the case and, even though it was all in the email trail. In some cases, I was even asked to provide information that I have already provided.

If Qantas were using a proper ticketing system, the reply email address would be specific to the ticket and all correspondence in the matter would be combined and easily accessible so that any agent picking up the case would be able to review the history and take a constructive action.

One may begin to suspect that this is a deliberate ploy to give the ‘run-around’ to avoid actually making good on the offer, however, I hope this is not the case.

If you’re reading this, Alan Joyce, or anyone who works in quality management with the QFF team, please reach out to me as, while I’ve practically given up on receiving the offer as advertised, I would like to offer some best practices advice on how you could enhance your systems and processes for better customer service.

UPDATE: Around 3 weeks after my last email to the QFF team, I received a deposit notification. When I looked I could see that the USD$100 was finally deposited into both Qantas Cash cards.

I didn’t, however, receive any correspondence other than the automated deposit notification. A simple email letting me know the issue had been resolved would have been a nice way to close off the ticket.

I do appreciate the fact that the offer was delivered, however, there is a lot of room for improvement in the overall customer experience when dealing with the QFF customer service centre.