United’s Customer Service Response
You may recall that a couple of weeks ago I was traveling in first class on a United 737-900 when a large roof panel came loose from the ceiling and swung down. For the next 90+ minutes the flight attendants were obsessed with that panel and the purser decided that she would not serve first class due to “safety concerns”, although she didn’t tell us that until later.
During that time, we weren’t even offered a glass of water, while all of coach was served from the drink carts in the rear of the aircraft. It was a slightly annoying occurrence and I did tweet as it was happening. Two times that day United’s twitter team reached out and suggested I contact customer service. The first was in response to my tweet as shown below and the second time when I shared the story of the roof panel on the blog.
— United (@united) August 13, 2015
My Email & Their Response
Since United had proactively reached out to me and requested that I contact them, I decided to share the story of what happened. My tone was not angry, but I did relay disappointment with the service. (Which to be honest was the worst I have ever received in domestic first class.) I sent my email to customer service on August 13 and finally received a response on August 20, 2015. A week long response is not ideal, however I know that things can get busy and I was traveling so had truthfully not thought about it. Here was their response:
I was sorry to learn from your comments, that we did not meet your expectations on your flight with us from Las Vegas to Chicago.
Direct customer feedback is so important in helping us improve.
One of United’s primary goals is to have the highest standards of excellence exemplified through our service and employees. In the service industry, nothing is more important than the impression we make with our customers, and as we have adopted the brand and made it our goal to be Flyer Friendly, it is truly disappointing when a customer has let us know they experienced anything less.
A number of tools and processes are being applied this year that will substantively address these goals. We are working to improve customer service, including investing in a comprehensive training course for frontline employees. We are consistently aligning service standards of professional women and men around our company.
We hope to welcome you aboard another flight in the near future, and thereby have the opportunity to win back your trust. Our goal is to create the world’s most Flyer Friendly airline. We still have room for improvement, but that’s the direction we’re headed.
We appreciate your business as a MileagePlus member, and thank you for flying United.
A Canned Response
Did you notice anything about that response? Other than plugging in my origin and destination, this guy just copied and pasted a boiler plate response. The main concern of my email was about the ceiling panel, however I did also mention how it took nearly two hours for us to be served. Either way, it was clear that he decided not to really address my issues specifically. The issues that their Twitter team had asked me to share.
I am not going to post the back and forth between me and the agent, however I responded to his email and asked why it took a week for him to cut & paste a response. To give this guy credit, after my response he tried to call me almost immediately, however I wasn’t able to answer and we continued via email. While his initial response was boiler plate, I think the fact that he tried to call is worth mentioning.
Basically in the end he defended his original email and said the generic language addressed my concerns. He also emphasized how they are working on improving their customer service. We’ll agree to disagree and in fact I guess that is what happened since the conversation sort of died and I haven’t heard anything further from him.
This Response is a Fail
To be honest, I am not sure if I deserve compensation from United for their service on this flight and I doubt I will pursue any. United proactively reached out to me via Twitter after reading the story and told me to convey it to customer service. In other words, their Twitter team seemed to think it was worth mentioning. As I said, I’m not sure if compensation is warranted so I’ll just assume not, however I do think an email that showed they had actually even read what happened would have been nice.
There are two main reasons I decided to share this. First, I really hate poor customer service. I’m not talking about what happened on the flight, but rather this guy’s response. I worked in sales and customer service for a decade and this behavior is simply not acceptable. The second reason I am sharing this is to hold United publicly accountable for this behavior. Once again, not for what happened on the plane, but instead for their failure to respond to situations such as this in a timely and effective manner. Basically, I don’t feel like they owe me anything, however this is a great reminder of why I avoid them on revenue flights.
I have never been a huge fan of United and only fly them when I am on an award ticket. (Which is perhaps why they aren’t jumping over themselves to respond to me.) This experience just reinforced my beliefs and my expectations of the company. It really is a shame, since I actually had a very good flight home from Europe the other day in Global First which I will review later. At this point my real problem with United is that they don’t seem to have the customer in mind when something goes wrong.
The truth is United didn’t deliver the product they promised on this flight which is bad, but they didn’t back up their product with customer service which is even worse. This type of experience makes me wonder what would happen if something more major were to happen? At this point I have no confidence that United as a company or their customer service employees will be there to take care of me.