LineBusters, Red Coats and Tourist Angels: The return of customer service agents

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At a time when airlines are finding more ways to reduce face to face contact with customers at airports, as they are expanding the number of self-service options with do-it-yourself baggage check-in and self-boarding turnstiles, customer service agents seem to be reappearing at airports. 

During this week’s Thanksgiving holiday rush in the U.S, United Airlines is equipping United service agents with so-called ‘LineBusters’ devices at Chicago O’Hare airport. The handheld touch-screen device displays which customers have been automatically rebooked on another flight after a cancellation or missed connection. Agents in the post-security area will pro-actively approach customers standing in line to determine if they are better off going directly to a kiosk to print a boarding pass, thereby reducing the line and the time spent waiting for information. 

In July 2009, Delta revived its service program known as ‘Red Coats’. Considered a kind of super service-agent, the Red Coats’ primary mission is to fix problems, and they are trained to be proactive, anticipating where help will be needed and showing up without waiting to be called upon. Delta’s Red Coats carry hand-held computers that let them handle an array of customer issues on-the-spot, such as helping customers make connections, handing out new boarding cards, or providing food vouchers if there is a need. Over 600 agents are currently deplyed available at the air-side of 14 airports across the U.S. Delta says the Red Coats are a nod to the need to offer a more personal touch. 

Meanwhile, in Rome, Italy, the tourist office has employed assistants who will be based in some of the destination’s main tourist locations, including airports, train stations and the city centre. The 16 so-called ‘Tourist Angles’ are easily recognisable as they move around on Segways and wear a yellow jumper with ‘Ask me’ written on the back. Their job is to provide help and advice to tourists in various languages, including Italian, English, Spanish, Japanese and Chinese.

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