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Here’s a Quarter, Call Someone Who Cares

Heres a quarter, call someone who cares

Here's a quarter, call someone who cares

Some time ago there was a Country & Western song entitled, “Here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.”  I don’t remember the lyrics or even who sang it, but this is the new catchphrase for United Airlines.

In last week’s Wall Street Journal it was announced that United is dropping an Indian customer-call center that took compliments or complaints, telling customers to write or email instead.  All customer communications will now be devoid of any customer relations phone numbers.

United claims they’ve done the research and “people who email or write us are more satisfied with our responses.”  Come on.  That’s just plain stupid.  It is either a blatantly bad cover-up for cost-reduction, or a gross misreading of customer data.  So many companies I’ve spoken with recently are reversing their offshoring decisions.  They’re finding that the overseas costs are soaring, the strong accents are off-putting for angry customers, and the results no longer justify the expense and hassle.

In this case, I’ve got to believe that United’s higher satisfaction scores are due to the fact that written English is far more easily understood than spoken as a second language.

There is a ton of research to prove that disgruntled customers want to speak with real humans, right now to gain resolution and closure.  To force someone to write a letter only forces them to sit and stew on the issue.  More research proves that they’ll tell anywhere from 2-30 other people about their bad experience.  Is the cost cutting in this area truly worth it?  This is a great example of what happens when you lose sight of your customer strategy and make decisions based on costs alone rather than on a detailed understanding and appreciation of long-term customer value.

United had a Chief Customer Officer, Graham Atkinson, but in October of last year, he was put out to pasture and Dennis Cary, the CMO took over the CCO role.  This bald-faced cost-cutting move sounds like what happens when nobody is truly accountable to the customer.

  • Marian Favors

    Curtis, I see this article was written in 2009, and in
    2016, United continues to refuse to speak with the customer. I recently had an
    experience with them a couple of days ago.

    I left my laptop on the plane. I called the 800# and was directed to
    reservations. When someone finally came on the line, he told me that I had
    reached reservation and that he would have to transfer me to the “lost and
    found” department. He then proceeded to tell me that he couldn’t help me
    in reservation.

    I responded by telling him that there was no option on the menu for me to choose from to go directly to “lost and found.” He stated that all calls route through reservation and they transfer the call to the appropriate department.

    When I finally got to the department, I was directed to go on-line to fill out a form. Okay, I understand why I needed to fill out a form, but I wanted to talk to someone in the department. I was seven minutes away from the airport for Pete’s sake, and I could have easily jumped in my car to get my laptop if
    it was found. Sadly, the representative told me that all their numbers to the “lost and found” department were for internal use only.

    Here is another example, of United disfranchising the customer to save cost. By
    the way, I am a Gold Status.

    When they called me to give feedback for a survey, I shared how awful the experience was.

  • Fascinatingly bad experience, Marian! It is a shame that this is still such a big issue even now! Why in the world would all calls be routed through reservations? Classic example of a company expecting customers to conform to antiquated business-centric processes.

    Here’s hoping you can find your laptop!