Blog Post
Air Canada’s “Elevate the Customer Experience Program” Gone Wrong
Actions Speak Louder Than The CEO’s Words
by Ed Murphy
“In effect, Air Canada suggests the chatbot is a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions. - Tribunal Member Christopher Rivers”
  • An Air Canada chatbot told a customer he could receive a bereavement discount
  • Airline officials say claims for bereavement rates must be submitted beforehand
  • The customer filed a claims complaint for a civil resolution tribunal
  • Air Canada unsuccessfully argued the chatbot’s misinformation was not its responsibility

In Air Canada’s 2022 Annual Report, President and Chief Executive Officer Michael Rousseau said, “We made smart decisions, remained competitive and continued to focus on all aspects of the customer journey through investments in new and improved technology and product upgrades.

Are Rousseau’s statements words on a page, or is Air Canada truly committed to elevating their customer experience?

Rousseau goes on to say, “To further enhance the customer experience, we launched an exciting new program: Elevate the Customer Experience (ECX). The central focus of ECX is the service excellence we deliver to every customer. The program comprises the tools we design, the technology we use and the training we provide to our employees to ensure they have everything they need to support our operation and take care of our customers. This includes, for example, a digital identity concept that we introduced in December, under our biometric technology program.”

While this sounds like a CEO who is embracing customer experience, based on Air Canada’s recent actions, the above are simply words on a page with little meaning.

In his ruling, Tribunal Member Christopher Rivers wrote, “In effect, Air Canada suggests the chatbot is a separate legal entity that is responsible for its own actions.” WOW, really? The airline encourages customers to use chatbots and not talk to a live representative but then essentially say, “Use at your own risk, information provided may not be correct.”

There are numerous articles and news reports about this that not only damage the reputation of Air Canada but also question how trustworthy an organization they are. Just think about all this negative press, all over CA$602!

In the rush to automate “easy” tasks that don’t require a “human touch,” companies implementing new technologies don’t appear to be doing their due diligence, ending in epic failures (i.e., Dynamic Parcel Distribution in the UK, National Eating Disorder Association in the US, Replika in Italy, etc.). Just like any new product launch or the roll-out of an enterprise-scale solution, testing, testing, and more testing need to be done before implementation. Nothing will ever be 100% accurate (it’s humans doing the designing and testing, after all), but to just roll out a new customer facing initiative and then claim no responsibility when errors occur is bad business practice.