Not long ago I posted some suggestions to United Airlines, submitted some feedback to them, and wrote that I’d keep you apprised of the progress.  I was prepared to be underwhelmed.  But United managed to surprise me positively.  Not every company responds in a way that improves a customer’s experience.  In this case, United pulled a rabbit from the hat.

  • My complaint registered via their website garnered a response after 7 days which seemed slow.  (Not bad.)  If they respond with same time frames for lost luggage or delayed flights this time frame might not work out so well.
  • The response was generic.  (Not good.)  Giving United the benefit of the doubt, they probably handle thousands of requests each day.  But, the response itself was well-written and followed several critical steps to recover from service issues.  The response promised a token to be delivered in 3 business days.
  • Surprisingly, it was delivered on time.  And more surprisingly, the value of United’s ‘travel certificate’ surpassed my inconvenience and thus, my expectations.  (Very good.)  Remember my initial ‘complaint’ was only a suggestion.

The data show that most people will complain quickly about subpar performance.  A Complaint is a Gift provides some stats like: 74 percent registered a complaint or told others.  The negative WOM (word of mouth) repercussions of these complaints are clear.  So when a company does a good job, it is just as (maybe more) important to say so.  In this case (and another involving Eurostar) United does just that.

The pivot point is that strong recovery efforts can be effective ways to earn customer loyalty.  Problems happen.  Preparing to handle them well wins customers and earns loyalty.  Ultimately United’s rabbit is profitability.

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