It has been over a year since I last handed out a Cranky Jackass Award, and that’s by design. My standards have really ratcheted up since the early days when I would pass them out for lesser transgressions. But last week, I discovered a change worthy of the award. Frontier has eliminated all phone support, and for that, it deserves a Cranky Jackass Award, without question.
Up until a little over a week ago, Frontier had an outsourced call center that could be reached by calling a local number, so Frontier could avoid those toll-free charges. This isn’t really an issue since nobody should be paying for long distance these days, but naturally Frontier did do it in a shady way, using (801) 401-9001. That area code is actually in Utah, but it’s close enough in digits to 800 make it look possibly toll-free. I’m surprised the airline didn’t go with a 900 or 976 number and make travelers pay to call. (Do those still exist?)
Now, if you call any number related to Frontier, you’ll get a recording saying that phone support is gone and you should use other channels. Here’s what a Frontier spokesperson told me:
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. We have found that most customers prefer communicating via digital channels. 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.
Chat and email are listed on the support page, but I don’t even see the other methods mentioned as options, so I suppose you just have to guess and hope.
I was curious to see just how good this chat option would be, so I made up a question, asking if the Works could be added after ticket purchase. (I knew the answer, it can’t, but that wasn’t the point.) After opening the chat window, I was faced with getting beyond the useless chatbot. My first half-hearted attempt failed.
So I asked my question, and this time it actually tried to help… but it failed miserably.
So, I said it wasn’t helpful and that’s when the actual human got unlocked. I gave a fake name and didn’t provide a confirmation number… and I waited for a response.
And then, it gave me the bad news.
My message is next in line but there are long waits? That does not compute. And there’s no way it was true. Still, it took me right around 10 minutes before Jemima joined the chat.
It was not a quick moment at all. Instead, it took about another 10 minutes while I assume Jemima was helping 100 other chats. She finally got back to me with the right info.
Obviously this was not worth chatting to get the answer since this was just a throwaway question, but how long would it take if I had a problem with a reservation? And it sounds like I got off lucky. The person at Cranky Concierge who discovered the death of the phone number couldn’t get anyone on the other end of chat. He left his computer on for several hours before giving up.
It’s efficient for Frontier… and I’m sure it’s cheaper… but it’s not good for customers who need quicker responses. And sometimes, phone support is the best way to go. Things can get lost in text-based conversations, especially when they are complex issues.
I know what you’re saying… “but, but Breeze doesn’t have a phone number, so why is this different?” First off, I don’t like that Breeze has no phone number either, but at least Breeze was designed to have no phone number. If you book Breeze, you are booking direct. The airline has chat and contact information along the path as needed. It’s not ideal, but it’s not Cranky Jackass-worthy. I’ll just wave my finger angrily.
Frontier is an *ahem* more complicated animal. It sells connections unlike Breeze, so missed connections, lost bags, etc are much more of a reality. It also sells its tickets through multiple channels, so it’s not just consumer support but also travel partner support that could benefit from phone support. And what does Frontier say about that?
This is absolutely wrong to call that phone number toll free, but it also doesn’t work anymore. And that fax number… I’ll assume it doesn’t work either, but also, pretty funny they say not to give it to customers even though it’s just on a public webpage that came up in my Google search. Anyway, it makes me want to do this…
Photo via ChtiTux/CC SA-3.0
I can absolutely understand wanting to push more people to digital channels. It is more efficient to have one person handling multiple different clients at the same time. But ultimately there are people who strongly prefer the phone, and there are some issues that are complex enough that a chat just won’t work as well, especially if there are long delays between responses. There are ways to push people toward using digital channels while still keeping the phone number alive for those who need it. Frontier decided to go with the stick instead of the carrot, however.
Enjoy that Cranky Jackass Award, Frontier. And maybe reconsider your decision.