There must be a reason but I sure as heck can’t find it! For that matter nor could the staff of Mango. Yes, it is another airline saga and one that perhaps you can enlighten me on.

The other day I was flying from Cape Town to Durban, ticket booked and paid for by the client with whom I was doing work. I arrive at the check-in counter only to be told that I needed to proceed to the customer service desk to pay an additional charge on my ticket. The reason for why this was necessary was unclear but who was I to question the reasons, besides which, I thought that could best be done once at the service desk itself. Then a straight-faced check-in person told me that the amount to be paid was… R1.

Yes, you read that correctly, no zeros attached….R1.

“So” I say, looking for hidden cameras or someone looking like Leon Schuster, “I need to go and queue at customer services, pay R1, and then return to this check-in queue?”. I received a look that said, “So what part of what I have just said didn’t you understand” but the words that come out were, “yes Mr Coats, that’s correct”.

Again I looked around for those cameras or a certain Mr Schuster, as it was possible I had missed them on my first inspection. Nothing.

I made my way over to the fee-paying counter with a great deal more merriment than could be expected in the circumstances. After all I sniffed the early signs of a great story and the words were being typed in my head with each purposeful stride. By the time I arrived at my destination a silly grin creased my face fuelled by the realization that I was in the midst of an unfolding story of preposterous proportions.

The customer services man whilst charming (possibly in response to my silly grinning demeanour), was completely at a loss to explain the system behind the need to collect an additional R1 from his customer. “In fact”, he informed me, “sometimes the surcharge is as little at 25c”, the absurdity of the situation seemingly dawning on him with fresh perspective.  As much as I pushed and probed as to possible reasons for Mango needing a further R1, we both were stumped. In the end we both admitted defeat in the cause of logic. My request for a receipt raised a broad grin from my newfound comrade in logic, and was really just to prove the point and ensure that my R1 was well spent! I am considering framing the receipt.

This, whatever the reason, and I am assuming that somehow, somewhere there must be a reason, is an example of a systems failure on the part of the airline. To inconvenience a customer in this way and waste the time of their staff is simply ludicrous. Someone hasn’t thought through the process and it is a system that doesn’t work in the best interests of the customer. When this is the case, the system needs changing.

All too often we impose systems that are made for us (the company) and may even make sense, but if they don’t work in the customer’s best interests, they should not be there. It is a simple as that!  We need to ensure that our customer engagement, and the systems underpinning such engagement work to the customer’s advantage.

I invite you to help me understand why my R1 was required. I invite you to share further insights of systems that actually work against the customers for whom they are designed.  It should be fun!

Mango and common sense seem to be strangers. That’s my R1s worth!

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