Many of us have expressed frustration over airline web sites — they really have a lot of challenges. However, I would like to share a very positive experience with one of them. In order to enable the MileageManager service to provide a consolidated view of all my mileage with the various airline and hotel programs, it is necessary to give them a proxy. This is done by giving them your profile or user ID or email address and your PIN or password. It would be nice if they all used accepted my Verisign digital certificate, but that is another story (stay tuned). In the case of Northwest Airlines, I didn’t have any login information so I visited their web site. My eye immediately spotted a “chat” button. I clicked on it and entered my question.
Seconds later the dialogue box blinked and a message appeared: “Hello, you have reached Tonia with nwa.com Customer Service”. After a couple of exchanges, I was all set. A minute or so later I received an email transcript of the entire chat session (see below). Instant messaging is not just for kids! I don’t know what technology they were using (many use IBM’s SameTime) but it worked really well. I suppose many e-businesses are asking how they can justify adding an instant messaging capability to their web site. the question that should be asked is how can they justify not having it. Would a business case be required to have a fax machine? The bar is moving up — expectations of users are rising by the day.
Following is the email I received from Northwest Airlines. I edited it slightly to remove my personal information.
Thank you for contacting nwa.com Customer Service.
Following is the transcript of our conversation.
Q: From John Patrick
WorldPerks Number: xxxxxxxxx
nwa.com Reservations
Am I enrolled for web site access?
A: Hello, you have reached Tonia with nwa.com Customer Service. You will need to register your WoldPerks number before you are able to purchase tickets online. You may access our nwa.com Reservations system by going to our home page at www.nwa.com and clicking on “nwa.com Reservations” under the Travel Planner drop down. On the following page, select your country of
residence and click “Search for Fares”. Once on the “Flight Search” screen, click on “sign-in” at the top of the page.
If you have not registered with our new nwa.com Reservations before, please select “Register” from the bottom right corner of the “sign-in” page. Upon completion of this registration, you will have access to reserve airfare, hotels, and car rentals in our new nwa.com Reservations.
Thank you for using nwa.com Customer Service. Should you need additional assistance, please click on “Reply.”
Q: I am not looking to buy a ticket right now. I just want to be able to check my mileage balance. What do I need to do for that?
A: To create a PIN for your WorldPerks account, select “WorldPerks” from the top of our homepage at www.nwa.com and click on “Manage my Account.” Click on the “Create A PIN” option and fill out the registration form to activate your PIN. The information entered must match the account information on file with WorldPerks. Creating a PIN will allow you to book on nwa.com Reservations and access your WorldPerks information online.
Thank you for using nwa.com Customer Service. Should you need additional assistance, please click on “Reply.”
12:18:28 PM 5/27/2003
10 minutes 48 seconds

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