By Joe Zaldarriaga

Consideration in customer service communications

For the past months, tourism has seen a strong recovery—both locally and globally with leisure travel regaining its momentum after the pandemic slowdown.

The Department of Tourism over the weekend reported that tourism arrivals in the Philippines have breached the 4-million mark, putting the country on track to meet its full-year target of 4.8 million visitors from abroad.

On the other side of the spectrum, interest in international travel is also gaining momentum among Filipinos with seven in 10 keen to travel abroad within a year, according to a travel insights report by Grab.

My family and I join many others who have returned to the traveling scene–eagerly planning our trips months ahead so that we have ample time to iron out the details and prepare our schedule around work commitments. We, like many others, do this in order to avoid, if not minimize, possible travel woes that might crop up given recurring news reports of problems encountered by Filipino travelers such as flight delays and cancellations.

I acknowledge and understand that for the past months, the airline industry has been faced with various supply chain challenges that have resulted in flight delays and cancellations, to the ire of many travelers.

While the problem is on an industrial level, it must be understood that the impact is personal–especially to travelers with ruined business trips, vacations, and other momentous life events.

Last week, I received an email from Philippine Airlines (PAL) informing me of a sudden change in my upcoming trip to Hong Kong—a flight delay and previous changes in our seat assignments as well. I counted a total of six emails at least.

While I appreciate the advance notice well ahead of our trip, I cannot help but be disappointed at the way PAL communicated the changes to us without a reason as to why there were such changes. The airline simply sent these advisories with a templated closing message of: “We acknowledge the inconvenience this may cause to your travel plans”.

The message lacked an explanation for such change which left me with more questions in my mind. Was the flight overbooked? Was there a problem with the assigned aircraft for our flight? Sadly, there was no reason provided.

I realized that beyond the flight delays, cancellations, and other issues when it comes to air travel, what adds insult to injury in these scenarios is the sadly disappointing customer service communications that travelers get.

When it comes to air travel, we travelers are often left helpless when there are sudden changes in business operations so it would really be appreciated if airlines have more consideration for customers when it comes to their customer service communications.

As a public communicator with decades of experience, I know fully well the importance of effectively communicating changes and developments to the public since doing so has been my bread and butter. Beyond communicating the actual impact of changes in business operations to customers, I have learned over the years that consideration and explanation help make customers understand the industrial change businesses implement on a more personal level.

Unforeseen changes in service delivery are naturally received in poor taste by customers and this should be understood by service providers and not frowned upon as entitlement given the personal impact on personal lives. This is why across different industries, a strong customer service communications infrastructure is a must to effectively deliver messages to customers and at the same time, ensure that these are received properly.

Service is personal which is why customer service communications should be done so with utmost consideration of those in the receiving end.

What may seem as business as usual or a small bump in operations for those in the service industry may not be the case for all customers. At the end of the day, all customers want is to receive quality service and if there are challenges to delivering this, hopefully these can be communicated with consideration.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Joe Zaldarriaga

Joe Zaldarriaga is a veteran, award-winning communicator immersed in public service within and beyond the energy sector. He has more than 30 years of experience serving the country’s biggest electric distribution utility and is involved in a number of public service functions, as member of various committees on public safety, power supply security and electrification. Concurrently, he is a prominent figure in the Philippine communications industry, as Chairman and Past President of the US-based International Association of Business Communicators Philippines (IABC PH). He is also an awardee of the University of Manila’s Medallion of Honor (Dr. Mariano V. delos Santos Memorial) and a Scroll of Commendation, a testament to his celebrated years in public service exemplified by outstanding communications.

Joe also shares his opinion and outlook on relevant national and consumer issues as a columnist in several prominent publications and is now venturing into new media via hosting a new vlog called Cup of Joe. Previously, Joe was a reporter and desk editor of a Broadcasting Company and the former auditor of the Defense Press Corps of the Philippines. A true green Lasalian, he finished with a degree in Asian Studies specializing in the Japan Studies program at De La Salle University, Manila, where he also spent his entire education.