Would these customer experiences turn you into a pessimist?


Share on LinkedIn

Generally, I consider myself an optimist. A “glass is half full” kind of person. I presume the best intentions of people, leaders and organizations. Yet in fast succession this week, a few things happened that have me falling into the bottom half of the glass.

Photo by Andrew Wilkinson

Optimist dent, chapter 1

A couple days ago, a colleague pointed me to Scott Kelby’s US Airways experience. Scott received an email from US Air informing him that he had forfeited 81,000 frequent flyer miles because of account inactivity. He actually had flown recently but simply forgot to use is account number. Scott was offered three different options to get back those miles, but all involved him shelling out money. Things just got worse from there.

Read about Scott’s initial experience, then see if you feel heat under your collar. I was ruffled, but the optimist in me thought surely this isn’t what the leaders at US Air intended.

It was Scott’s follow up post, outlining the response from USAir, that got me doubting. I commented there:

I’m an optimist, and like to think the leaders at any organization are smart, well-intended people. In that world, the replay of your experience (in your Nov 5 post) would shock USAir leaders into action. Time will tell if the resolution of the situation will go beyond your “squeaky wheel” – and if I’m optimistic or simply naive.

I sincerely hope that Scott’s experience will cause the leaders at USAir to rethink their actions at this critical phase of the customer experience. (Check out the “evolve” step for the goals common to all customers at this step.) How should they handle frequent flyer miles for inactive customers – and for those who simply forget to use their account numbers? Will there be any change for ALL their customers, not just guys like Scott who are connected to people at the airline and stir up a buzz in social media?

Optimist dent, chapter 2

In the 24 hours after commenting on Scott’s dilemma, I received two strange email messages. The subject lines of both emails were the kind you expect to find in your inbox — follow up, checking in, that kind of thing. But I didn’t recognize the senders. I clicked the one called ‘checking in’ and found this:

Hi Linda,

Good afternoon. I hope this finds you well.

In the past we have tried to conduct some business together and I wanted to check in to see if there are any opportunities where we can work together once again?

Please let me know and I will be happy to help in any way. Please know that we provide a wide assortment of Holiday Gifts for your needs as well. Please contact me when I can be of service.

All my best to you,

Of course by the time I got to the very professional name and company info at the bottom I knew this was nothing but a solicitation. Unsolicited bulk email. Curious, I searched the sender on LinkedIn and found a real person at a legitimate business. We share membership in a group – one with over 2,000 members – and I have never connected with this person in any other way.

The next morning I received a similar message from a different company. What motivates this kind of thing? Were they trying to trigger a need? Did they think that could earn my consideration by assuming a personal relationship with me?

Honestly. What school of marketing did these leaders attend where this was taught as a good idea? Is there some bad but acceptable practice still out there that says the .0001 percent response this may achieve can actually be a profitable and sustainable approach for customer acquisition? I cannot imagine a positive customer experience could unfold based on the insinuation of a past relationship.

I’m still trying to believe the leaders in the situations I’ve described here are smart, well intentioned people. Yet USAir appears to be sticking to their guns on dumb actions for a long term customer. And my email buddy (not) seems stuck in an insincere, silly way to earn consideration from a prospect.

What’s an optimist to think?

In this office we’re calling this post “the optimist’s rant.” Perhaps so – and if a rant it is I’ll say thanks for listening and holler back if you like.

And if, like me, you need to restore your faith in leaders as smart, well intended and able to execute brilliant customer experiences, look no further than 4 customer experience lessons from Children’s Hospitals and Clinics. I promise it will re-warm your optimist’s heart.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Linda Ireland
Linda Ireland is co-owner and partner of Aveus LLC, a global strategy and operational change firm that helps leaders find money in the business performance chain while improving customer experiences. As author of Domino: How to Use Customer Experience to Tip Everything in Your Business toward Better Financial Performance, Linda built on work done at Aveus and aims to deliver real-life, actionable, how-to help for leaders of any organization.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here