Quick Update, United Responds – Still Does not Understand


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Almost as soon as I clicked the button to publish my previous entry I received an email from United in regards to my tweets from yesterday (not of all of them were kind).

Here is the text of the email:

Dear Mr. Kolsky:

I’m sorry to learn that you were inconvenienced when your most recent flight resulted in a delay and misconnection.  This runs counter to our team efforts to run a great airline.  To assure you of our intentions to improve your next trip with us, I’m depositing one 500-mile upgrade into your Mileage Plus account.


<name withheld>

Manager Customer Solutions

Customer Relations

Ref #: <number withheld>

This message is intended only for the use of the Addressee and may contain information that is PRIVATE and CONFIDENTIAL. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please erase all copies of the message and its attachments and notify the sender immediately.  Thank you.

As our valued guest we would like to collect your valued feedback on today’s outreach.

Please click on the link below to access our short survey.

<link removed>

First of all, Kudos to United for listening via Twitter.  Really, major props on that, and on taking action and responding.  I think they are at least trying.

However, there are three things that are wrong here – from my perspective – as far as providing an experience:

  1. The offer to deposit an upgrade on my account as compensation.  As I said in my original post, I am not looking for compensation of any type.  I am looking for a change in the company.  I am not naive to think that my tweets and posts will make United change their culture and become a customer-driven company.  Far from it.  But instead of telling me you are trying to run a great airline, how about if you said “This runs counter to our team efforts to deliver great experiences for our customers”.  Honestly, you cannot do one without the other.  Work on delivering awesome experiences, run a great business as a result.
  2. There is no way for me to return to them with a comment or even a thank you.  This is not about getting a conversation going with customers, it is about doing something that the company thinks is what the customer wants without asking, or allowing for exchange.  What if I prefer that they take the cost of this and donate it to charity? or a local food bank? or just wanted to say “thank you, awesome job”.  The arrogant assumption that because they did something the case is closed is very, very wrong.  Unfortunately, this is what happens in most organizations today.  The proper way to solve this issue would have been to say “What can we do for you? What can we do better?”.  Engagement means to listen as well as you speak.
  3. At the end of the email there is a sentence “As our valued guest (…)” that makes be believe this is not an offer of peace, just a token to shut me up.  Am I a valued customer? To whom? To the three employees who were not being helpful yesterday? To the one who wanted to blame the problems in someone outside of the company? To the person who sent me the email without a way to continue the conversation?  I don’t think I am very valued.  As a matter of fact, it sounds phony and dishonest to me.  Alas, this is predominant in corporate communications these days – let’s call them associates instead of employees, or we call them valued guests instead of customers.  Honestly, I would prefer to be employed by an organization that shared my values and principles than be an associate to someone who is clueless.  I would prefer to be a happy customer than an unhappy “Valued guest”.  Honesty marries intentions with delivery, not intentions with words.

I would have preferred to have someone from United contact me and ask me for my input on how to make that experience better, how to improve the process, what to do about this experience not happening again — to anyone!  What’s that? If they do it for me they have to do it for all their customers? Sure, they do.

That way they will ensure to have lots of customers to take care of, as opposed to one less customer who won’t get to enjoy that free upgrade.

Esteban Kolsky
ThinkJar, LLC
Esteban Kolsky is the founder of CRM intelligence & strategy where he works with vendors to create go-to market strategies for Customer Service and CRM and with end-users leveraging his results-driven, dynamic Customer Experience Management methodology to earn and retain loyal customers. Previously he was a well-known Gartner analyst and created a strategic consulting practice at eVergance.


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