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Sometimes the simplest ‘tricks’ are the best, and that’s certainly true of one of the real golden oldies in the Points/Miles/travel hacking world: Hang Up And Call Again (HUACA) – a tip so famous it has its own acronym.
Even the best known tips are worth repeating occasionally though, particularly if they are as useful as HUACA.
It’s an unfortunate fact that not all call centre agents are given sufficient training to be able to do their jobs properly (an issue I place squarely at the door of senior management, not the under-trained staff themselves), so maintaining a healthy scepticism towards the information they give you is prudent.
I was reminded of this yesterday when I had to ring Marriott Rewards and American Airlines AAdvantage about a couple of things.
With Marriott, all I wanted to do was move some Points from my account to a family member’s – which usually takes 30 seconds. This time, the agent didn’t know where to begin and (in a friendly manner) advised me that I should do it online. I would love to be able to transfer Points myself online, but it’s actually impossible to do so.
It was clear that the agent had no idea how the transfer system worked, so rather than wasting any more time, I just thanked him and then rang again. A couple of minutes later I was speaking to an extremely competent agent who sorted the transfer quickly and easily.
With American Aadvantage, I wanted to change the dates on an Etihad Business Class award that I’d booked using AA Miles (which you can do for free!). To make a change, naturally there has to be award space available on the new date, but as I could see plenty of ‘GuestSeat’ availability on the Etihad site (which is what partners like AA should also have access too) I was confident that wouldn’t be a problem.
I was therefore surprised when the agent told me that there was Economy and First Class availability, but nothing for Business Class. Given that they had managed to find some Etihad space (not all AA agents can do this), I initially decided to stick with the call and asked them to try again and search for space leg by leg, etc. After double checking, the agent was absolutely categoric that there was no Business Class availability.
The thing to note here is that the agent sounded confident, competent and convincing – if I wasn’t used to dealing with award bookings, I would probably have believed them and given up on trying to change my flights. I was quite sure though that the award space I wanted did exist, so I called back and the next agent found the space immediately and was able to make the changes.
These examples offer two main lessons when it comes to HUACA:
1) Don’t waste any more time than you have to – if it’s obvious an agent is struggling or doesn’t seem to understand what you’re talking about, end the call and try again.
2) Don’t trust what agents say as gospel – even if they are competent and convincing, mistakes can (and do) still happen.
I dread to think about the number of people each day who get bad information from customer service agents which leads to them paying more than they need to, getting stuck with an inconvenient routing, or missing out on the trip they want to take altogether.
If you’re not 100% sure an agent is right about something, just take an extra couple of minutes and phone back (maybe more than once!) to double check.
What’s the worst/best info you’ve ever been given by a customer service agent?