Unicorns, leprechauns, EL AL customer-friendly UX, & other mythical creatures

ELAL Israel Airlines For months, I’ve been trying/failing/procrastinating/trying again/failing again/sighing/punching walls in disbelief/trying again to log in to my EL AL Matmid Frequent Flyer account and handle some points issues. I’ve tried online, I’ve called, I’ve tweeted, my travel agent has tried for me, but nothing helped, and yet on every log in attempt, I’ve gotten an assortment of unclear red error messages, sighed, and moved on.

Apparently, it turns out, despite the depths of my wild imagination, I’m just not creative enough to have figured this one out on my own.

I tried calling again today. After 15 minutes of Hold jingle and Hold lady telling me to Hold, I finally got through to a nice phone rep, and told her my issue. She entered my details and responded that the account looked great. “I’ll send you your password via SMS,” said she, and I merrily hung up and went back to the computer.

It didn’t work.

I called back. Another 15 minute-hold brought me to another lovely rep, who again accessed my account.

“Looks great!” she said.

“I wish I could see,” I said.

“Oh, dear -” she said, in an I’m so sorry you’re kinda clueless voice, “you’re forgetting to enter a number on your account ID; that’s why it doesn’t recognize  it online.”

“What? A number? I’ve entered what it says on all my emails, notifications, etc…”

“You’re missing the mispar bikoret. There’s a 1 at the end.”

0_0

Oooooooooooh. A ONE at the end. Of course! Please hold while I feed my pet unicorn the tears of a hypochondriac dragon, bred on the lush farms of 16th century Icelandic garden gnomes.

A ONE at the end! You know, I had searched every coat pocket, and still couldn’t locate it.

Dear family and friends and readers abroad, allow me to introduce you to the elusive, surreal, magical creature, the mispar bikoret. I don’t even know how to properly translate it into English, and after polling, am still unsure between ‘verification number’ ‘CRC’ ‘prefix’ ‘security number’ and of course, ‘unicorn.’

In Israel, it shows up here and there. Most commonly, it’s on your teudat zehut (though it’s 99% of the time written out as part of a complete nine-digit sequence; I’ve never not had to include it…).

It might be any digit on the numeral palette, but let me tell you now that if you’re missing it from your EL AL frequent flyer account ID, it will put you through absolute airline frustration for MONTHS.

For how was I to know my account number even contained one, when my log in errors and email messages never included it or its necessity in the sequence?

Example 1: Signing in with the right password.

Example 2: Signing in with the right password, and then clicking Forgot Password.

Example 3: The member number written out at the bottom of an ELAL email; I promise that under the blur are six digits, missing the final one.

 

 

 

While it’s true the EL AL website won’t win any design awards post-1996, I do think it’s possible to get a passing grade in usability even if the design isn’t appealing. The website is a major UI/UX fail. It should not have taken a high-functioning internet literate person like myself this long to figure out the login problem.

Another failing grade for accessibility: It’s wonderful to have multiple (and updated!) Facebook pages and Twitter accounts, but what’s the good in social media investment if there is no flood of two-way conversation? Or even a functional  EMAIL ADDRESS for contacting customer support with quick questions?

[When I have been able to email EL AL, I’d get an auto-reply that they’d get back to you within ten business days. Ten? Really? Still using AOL dial up?]

I would like to say though, that I did actively choose EL AL over Delta and United for two reasons, despite the fact that Delta was cheaper, and United was the same exact price. Confidence in their security is one, and the second – I appreciate the way the EL AL staff, from start to finish, handles parents traveling with children. They are the only airline I’ve been on that really gets it. Truly ‘your home away from home.’ Despite some glaring service setbacks, it’s heimish. And as we know, United failed at that the last time I flew with them.

I’m a no-frills kind of gal, so lacking certain perks (or, manners) doesn’t phase me. But I travel alone with kids enough to require the security in knowing I’ll have supportive flight attendants.

So I actively choose EL AL.

Is it too much to ask for a pleasant customer experience before the flight as well?

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