Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Your Business is in Danger!

Hello. I flew your airline from NYC to Cleveland recently, and it was a very decent flight that took off on time and landed early. I had no complaints.

On my return trip, I arrived at the airport a little early and realized when I reached the concourse that a flight was due to leave in 20 minutes or so. I think you know where this is headed.

I decided that it wouldn't be a bad idea to see if I might take the ealier flight instead of waiting another hour and a half for my plane. Upon reaching the gate for the departing flight, I saw that they had just started boarding Elite Access; so I approached an agent. After waiting a few moments, I inquired about availability on the flight and if I might be able to depart earlier.

The flight was half empty and the agent checked my ticket and then quoted me a "change fee" of one hundred and fifty dollars. Now I fly quite often and asked her what the fee would be to fly standby. Again she consulted her screen and quoted me a fifty dollar fee. Aha!!! Well that's a little better.

I decided to wait for my flight in order to warn you that your business is in danger. Do you know why? If you're a savvy business person, I'm sure you do.

This employee just passed up the chance to make an avid fan, who's a frequent flyer and small business owner, in order to make a quick buck.

I'm already thinking that I'll submit this letter, without your business being named, to several publications as a warning to other struggling businesses.

If this young lady would have quoted me the first price and then said something to the effect that she would check to see what the price would be for standby; I would have probably done just that. If she would have let me fly on the half empty flight without a charge seeing that I already had a paid ticket and the flight was half empty, you would have earned a fan who would tell everyone about the experience. Of course exactly the opposite will now come to pass.

How can struggling companies guarantee that their doors will stay open in hard economic times? How do you make sure that a majority of your customers pass along your information in a positive light almost certainly guaranteeing you more business? By doing something special for each and every person at every available opportunity.

From my standpoint and opinion, it seems that your company was just attempting to turn a quick buck with no concern for my comfort or for my future business. The flight was not full. I had a paid ticket. The flight had barely started boarding. It would cost the airline nothing to take on one extra passenger. BUT the goodwill it would have garnered would have been worth...priceless.

As things stand, I'll now think twice before booking my flight with your airline and it's partners. Of course I will also go out of my way to recommend another airline to my partners and contemporaries.

I just wanted to warn you. Your business is in danger.


Lamont said...

Great letter. A lot of companies lost sight of the customer because they are too focused on the stock holders. What they fail to realize is that you can't please one without pleasing the other.

Anonymous said...

Amen to that.

robertanton said...

Dear Mr. -------:

Thank you for contacting us about your recent experience. I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

You indicated that the gate agent did not waive the change fee to change your reservation to an earlier flight that was not full.

Your comments are important to us and your requests will always be carefully considered. We regret the disappointment you endured when your request for a waiver of the service charge was denied. We strive to provide optimal customer service and remain keenly aware of how one incident of negative service can adversely affect a customer’s overall evaluation of our service.

Please accept our genuine apology. We regret having played any role in causing you distress for a moment in your life.

------- Airlines’ terms and conditions call for service charges for most tickets when itineraries are modified. Our goal is to balance the needs of our customers with the business needs of our company. Service charges are catalysts for accurately forecasting the number of passengers onboard the planes and the number of tickets we have to sell. I am truly sorry if our employee appeared unsympathetic to your request. Our employees are encouraged to offer personalized, compassionate customer service at all times.

In this extremely competitive and challenging business environment, it is absolutely essential that we adhere to the published terms and conditions of our ticketing policies, and we try to apply the rules consistently.

Mr. ------ your business is very important to us. We look forward to welcoming you onboard your next Continental Airlines flight and thank you for your continued support.


robertanton said...

Now the response given is very unsatisfactory to me as a customer. It even rings a bit on the sarcastic side.
Will I fly with this airline again? Only if it's a hundred or more dollars cheaper than any competing airline.
Will I recommend them to anyone else? It's very doubtful. I'd probably go out of my way, as would anyone who felt slighted and disabused, to relate my story and recommend another carrier.

Lamont Frazier said...

The representative either missed the point of your letter or just didn't care.

" is absolutely essential that we adhere to the published terms and conditions of our ticketing policies, and we try to apply the rules consistently."

That's the problem that you were pointing out. Their employees apparently are not empowered to help a customer when he/she is being wronged by their policies.

robertanton said...

Yes, I also believe that he just didnt care; this is the very reason that I believe they will soon be in trouble.
I did drop him another note. I'm now an Elite member, and I hope it's only because of my most recent flight itinerary and nothing to do with my letter.

robertanton said...

and there's more. At least some manager thought it was wise to follow up again:

Dear Mr. :

Thank you for your continued interest in this matter. I regret that you were not satisfied with the previous Manager's reply.

Mr. Wingenfeld, our representative quoted you correctly when you asked "How much to change my flight".Confirmed ticket changes are normally more costly, which is what she quoted you per the restrictions of your ticket. Standby charges of $50.00 are just that, standby which she did not realize you were interested in doing. This is a less expensive alternative to confirm make a change to a restricted ticket. Not always is it available.

The terms and conditions of the tickets we sell are designed to balance the needs of our customers with the business needs of our company.

I would like to assure you that your concerns have not gone unnoticed. I have registered them in an internal report that is shared with our senior management. Our management staff uses the information that we received from our customers to improve upon the service we offer to each of our customers.

I sincerely understand your position in this matter. We value your business and hope for another opportunity to serve you travel needs in the future.


Customer Care Manager