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Airline automated customer support

Frontier Airlines Eliminates Live Agent Customer Support

The Decision Is On-Brand for the Discount Carrier, But Could Prove Risky and Alienating

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Many companies have tried to shift the bulk of their customer support operations to digital channels to allow live agents to handle only the most complex or critical calls. But as the busy travel season shifted into high gear, Frontier Airlines took a bold step, and confirmed it had ceased providing all live agent customer telephone support.

As a result, customers who called the customer service phone number as of November 28, 2022, were greeted with an automated message that says, “At Frontier, we offer the lowest fares in the industry by operating our airline as efficiently as possible. We want our customers to be able to operate efficiently as well, which is why we make it easy to find what you need at or on our mobile app. We also have a chat service available 24/7.”

Frontier has long been seen as a cost-cutting carrier, charging customers for oversize bags, changes to reservations made by travel agencies or online travel services, and an electronic commerce charge. The move to eliminate live agents is on-brand for the discount carrier, and is being positioned as a way for the airline to allow customers to quickly access information without waiting for a live agent.

“Our Customer Care function recently transitioned to fully digital communications, which enables us to ensure our customers get the information they need as expeditiously and efficiently as possible,” explains a statement sent to Dash Research. “Customers can visit our website and interact initially with a chatbot which provides answers to common questions. If live agent support is needed, we have live chat available 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. Customers may also chat with us via common social media channels and WhatsApp.”

The use of digital channels by organizations can provide more efficiency; workers can often handle multiple chat conversations at once, compared with a single voice engagement. However, switching between conversations can introduce service lags that increase customer dissatisfaction.

Further, some customers – particularly elderly people and those without a personal internet account – may find it more difficult to connect with Frontier or other organizations that do not make telephone support available. For its part, Frontier did not respond to Dash Research’s questions on specific live-agent metrics, only referring to a statement which read, “We have found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels.”

Frontier is not the only airline to ditch telephone support, as Breeze Airways also does not support live telephone interactions. However, that company does allow customers to text, email, or use Facebook Messenger to connect.

While the move to eliminate telephone-based support likely will result in cost savings, and may increase efficiency (particularly for routine tasks, such as checking a flight status), the move may further alienate Frontier from its customers. Without the ability to create live human interactions, customers may not feel as connected to the brand. And while some chats may be handled by live agents, the disassociated nature of typing versus speaking makes it harder for the company to display empathy, which is key to creating and maintaining a good customer experience.

Perhaps most damaging, eliminating telephone support may send another message to customers: that they are not worth talking to. In the days of CX being a key decision criterion, often equal in importance to price, the move to cut out telephone support may wind up grounding Frontier.

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