Kudos for answering complaints, United!

Written by admin on November 13, 2008 – 12:58 pm -

United Airlines has just been commended by an independent advisory panel for improving its customer relations program. Airlines are now being rewarded for communicating with their customers. Wasn’t that once a basic good and expected business practice?

The Global Six Sigma and Business Improvement awards for Best Project in Achievement, Marketing and Customer Experience said the airline has made significant new gains in dealing with its public relations challenges. It’s implemented a new system to improve the quality and timeliness of customer responses, inquiries, compliments and concerns.

Barbara Higgins, vice president of customer relations, said “While United is taking aggressive steps to address the causes of complaints, we are equally focused on ensuring that concerns are addressed quickly and effectively. This award is indicative of some very significant progress.”

The normal domestic traveler may not notice a great deal of difference when winging their way from Chicago to Denver or Boston to DC. However, the airline does far better when it comes to long haul flights, most notably flights to Asia where service takes on a different look and feel.

Perhaps there are three contributing factors:

1. Many of the passengers are business travelers and are paying substantially more for their tickets.

2. Others use their premium status and miles to upgrade to business or even first class.

3. The flight crews tend to be more senior than the ones flying between Washington, DC and Chicago several times a day since it’s a short hop, skip and jump.

Airlines are certainly more solicitous to passengers they’re sure to see again and again than people who take that once-per-year vacation.

Hopefully, United will find a way to extend their long-haul service attitudes and procedures to their domestic routes. That will go a lot further toward improving customer relations that simply answering complaints more efficiently.

Karen Fawcett is president of BonjourParis.

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