Friday 29 May 2015

Negotiating Skills In Practice

It is always heartening to demonstrate (to myself) that the skills I train others to use do actually work in practice.

Last week, three of my children and I went to France to walk from Paris to Chartres (and that's another story). Jane (née Plasom) had booked the flights, and I realised a few days beforehand that she had booked them all in the name of Plasom-Scott. For reasons with which I won't bore you, my driving licence, and the kids' passports, are all in Plasom-Scott, but my passport is still in Scott. Realising that this might cause problems at the airport, I phoned the airline to explain the situation.

They said I would indeed have to change my ticket so that the name on it matched the name on my passport, and that they would do that: for an £11 admin fee, and a £40 something-else fee - ie £51 in total.

That struck me as excessive, but I went ahead as I wanted first and foremost to ensure that I could get on the flight with the children.

However, the more I thought about it, the more I felt ripped off, so I got back to them, using the approaches that I cover in my negotiating skills workshop - based on Harvard's model of Principled Negotiation.

That involved being very clear about my concerns, and asking them to explain by what criteria they had reached the conclusion that £51 was a suitable fee for a small administrative change that must have taken them all of two minutes.

Their response was a positional one: that we had a contract; the terms were that alterations were charged for; the fee was comparable with their competitors' charges.

So I replied that I understood that we had a contract; but what I failed to understand was how they had arrived at the level of the charge. It seemed to me that they were simply exploiting the fact that they had the legal right to charge a fee.  However, I made it clear that I was open to their explanation justifying the level of charges. I also made it clear that if they were unable to give me a satisfactory explanation, I would continue to feel aggrieved, and would consider a variety of possible actions as a result.

I listed a range of possible actions I could envisage taking, from amusing myself at their expense online, to using them as a case study in customer care training, as well as contacting the regulator. For, as I told them, if we were unable to reach an amicable settlement, I might as well get some value, if only entertainment, for the money they had taken from me.

The result was a refund of £40.  £11 still seems a bit steep for a 2 minute alteration, but I can live with that. 

So once again, the investment in Getting to Yes (Fisher and Ury) paid off...

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