I need to get a few things off my chest, or out of my files as it were. We all experience customer service failures. Many of them aren’t a big deal, so we pass them off as too trivial to respond to, or we respond in the ultimate non-confrontational way by stiffing a bad waitress on a tip.
Partly because I’m pretty non-confrontational…quit laughing. Seriously, I am. I know you guys see me mad sometimes, but it actually takes a lot to get me there. I’ve mellowed out a lot since the days when I carried a fully automatic weapon everyday and people shot at me on a regular basis. Anyways, I like to give places an opportunity to remedy their idiocy or faux pas before I go ballistic. That’s why a couple of these incidents I’ll be reporting are a little old. I was simply waiting for the business in question to get back to me.
I think I’ve waited long enough on this one, so here’s my most recent personal experiences with extreme customer service failures at US Airways.
Here’s part of a letter I sent to a company VP in the hopes of gettinghelp. The letter pretty much spells out the incident. As I couldn’t get any satisfaction or even a decent response from the customer service folks at US Airways, I tried an end run around them and sent a letter to a company VP. But, argh, the gatekeeper got the letter. It was intercepted by a lower level servant and she sent me a curt letter back suggesting that I should not send mail to company officers in the future because they couldn’t do anything for me.
This letter was sent to Elise Eberwein, the VP of People , Communications, and Public Affairs. Personally, I think her staff needs to do a better job on all three.
Dear Ms Eberwein:
Please let me apologize beforehand. I’m not sure if you are the right person to address this to, but I’ve been unable to find any other person within the company to speak to. I have tried to address this issue through the US Airways Customer Service contacts, but they have not only been unable to help me, they have also refused to refer me to a higher supervisor.
If this is not within your purview, could you please pass it on to the right person?
Here’s my issue-
My wife and I tried to fly out of Myrtle Beach SC on 19 Sept 2012. Our original confirmation code was GE9XKN. We boarded the plane in Myrtle Beach SC and a delay was announced that would ruin the connecting flights for about 90% of the passengers. We were never told why the plane would not take off in time and the US Airways manager was rude and crass when asked. This was just fuel on the fire for this guy. We had already complained about him at the ticketing counter. There was a group of young ladies whose checked bags were heavy so they were sitting at the ticket counter shuffling clothes into other bags to avoid the overweight bag charge. He just looked at them and told them they needed to get the weight down again if they didn’t want to pay more money. Then he actually started singing the song For the Love of Money by the O’Jays. You know, the one that goes “Money money money money, MONEY”? I’m sure you hear the complaints that people have about paying so many fees above and beyond the ticket price? Imagine standing in line with a group of people already steaming about fees and hearing one of your representatives singing about it.
During the deplaning process his attitude was just the same. He just told us to get off the plane and get in line at the desk. Another US Airways representative rebooked us on a United flight for later in the day. Because of the booking we had to go back downstairs, get our luggage again, and go through the security process again with our luggage and also the personal screening by the TSA. I was also transporting a firearm so this process was a little longer than usual. At the rebooking the US Airways representative gave us a stack of paperwork that is quite indecipherable for a non-employee. These are attached at the end of this letter. Maybe you can make sense of these.
When we got to the United desk to process the tickets that were rebooked, it turned out that on one leg of the flight there was only one ticket rebooked instead of actually having the required two tickets for both me and my wife. I snapped a photo of the screen from the United kiosk. It’s in the attachments at the end of this letter. The United representative told us that we had to purchase an additional ticket if we wanted to fly together, but that she had no control over the fact that US Airways had only booked us for one person. We were actually forced to pay for two additional tickets instead of the one rebooked by your representative in order to actually travel together in the same plane.
The new booking rerouted us through a different airport with a longer layover which effectively ruined the first day of travel and the appointments I had set at the destination based on the original travel time.
I would like for something to be done to rectify this incident.
- The total cost of my tickets for US Airways was $658.20.
- The total cost of my bags with US Airways was $50.
- The additional cost I was forced to pay United was $139.
- The total cost of my bags with United was $50.
- The additional cost of food for the extended travel time was $36.23.
Because of the additional travel time, I missed an appointment at the Hoover Dam in Nevada that was part of a travel article assignment which cost me an additional $250 in income. By the time we arrived at our destination that Visitor Center and the Dam were closed and we had to drive further north to Utah for another set of appointments.
I attempted to contact US Airways through the standard website contact form and through Twitter. That is what began the process that turned this entire issue from a simple problem with flight routing into one that borders on an egregious customer service failure.
Your team was quick to respond on Twitter, which is commendable, but the folks handling e-mail and telephone correspondence could definitely use additional training. One of the first e-mails actually told me that they couldn’t do anything to help me but that “Your feedback will be used as a training tool to help US make future improvements to our service.” While I can understand how my feedback is helpful to you as a company, I don’t see how telling the customer that is very helpful at all. It made me feel like the only good thing coming out of my complaint is more training but no help to me. From the customer point-of-view, I really don’t care what the company does internally with my e-mail. I want satisfaction and to know that my complaints have been heard. If you read the voice of the e-mails, surely you can see how emotionless and uninterested they seem. I’m not naive enough to actually think the customer service reps really do care about my situation but the best ones should actually act and appear like they do care. The tone of the customer service e-mails fit the definition of platitude very well and that is not a good feeling to convey to a customer. It would also appear from the signature lines that each time I contacted the company or responded to an e-mail, I spoke to a different representative.
Throughout this process I asked to be transferred to a supervisor or manager in the Customer Service department. No one ever addressed this request, and as far as I can tell, it was never done. At least no representative ever identified themselves as such. That is why I am appealing to you.
After being asked to send in paperwork by both Erik May and Kevin Ung, I received an e-mail on 10/1 from Tony Chase that made it sound like the situation had already been dealt with and that I could expect no further communication from US Airways.
Then I received another e-mail from Cheryl Lowe on 10/8 that asked me to send in the information again. My last communication until this letter was me faxing all of the paperwork to her on 10/11. And now here we are.
It was about all of this time that on 9/26 Seth Godin wrote a blog titled “The simplest customer service frustration question of all”. With your experience I’m sure you’re familiar with Godin. I’ve been a reader of his books and blog for years and they have helped me immeasurably in my own businesses and classes. The entire blog was simply this-
“Why isn’t this as important to you as it is to me?”
In that simple one sentence blog he expressed everything I feel about this situation.
David Horowitz, a leading consumer advocate, even wrote an entire article addressing the issue of airline customer service in the October issue of Costco Connection. It would seem that I’m not the only person having trouble. After all, this is my first problem ever with US Airways. That’s why I wanted to give the company a chance to address it rather than blowing me off like some of the customer service representatives have done.
I teach customer service classes to both businesses and at the university level. One thing I always teach my students is to ask in some way what they can do to fix the situation. I find that many times customers want something more than just the ability to complain. They want some type of a resolution and it is the customer service department’s job to find the resolution that satisfies everyone, not just the customer but the company. In class I refer to this as Integrating, which I describe as a situation in which both parties work together to find a solution that is mutually beneficial because it respects both parties and focuses on solving the problem. I feel that this hasn’t been done so far, and I would like to pursue that strategy from this point forward.
Here is my desired outcome from this situation, one in which I would hope that both me and the company benefit from.
- I would like to continue using US Airways and trusting that your service is better than the other airlines available. I signed up for a US Airways credit card last year and choose your airline over others because I am happy with the destinations serviced from my home. Until now, I thought myself a loyal customer and was making an effort to stick to your airline and continue accruing frequent flyer and credit card points to help me along.
- I would like a refund of my original ticket cost in the form of a credit card refund, an equivalent number of airline points, or a flight voucher for the same cost.
- I would like a refund of my baggage fees in the form of a credit card refund, an equivalent number of airline points, or a flight voucher for the same cost.
- I would like a refund of my additional ticket cost for United Airlines in the form of a credit card refund, an equivalent number of airline points, or a flight voucher for the same cost.
- I would like a refund of my United Airlines baggage fees in the form of a credit card refund, an equivalent number of airline points, or a flight voucher for the same cost.
- I would like to know that the issue of customer service representative courtesy will be changed for the better through some form of training.
- I would like for the rude US Airways representative at the Myrtle Beach SC airport to be spoken to about his behavior. I didn’t get his name at the time, but I will be glad to drive out there and do so if needed.
- I would like for your customer service department to start using a case officer approach when complaints are not easily dealt with at the first communication. Having a single e-mail address to send documents to and the same person to deal with throughout this issue would have been much more helpful to me and made me feel more important as a customer.
- Most of all, I just want to leave this situation behind me with the idea that I was heard and listened to and that my opinion as a customer actually matters.
Thank you so much for your time Ms Eberwein.
This message was written by Dr. David Powers. You can always find me at www.drdavidpowers.com. Thanks for reading!