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.