A number of you are familiar with my saga with United/Continental from this past weekend, whether you followed it on Twitter or read about it the other day here.
I have to take the time to say that while I am not sure I was expecting it, Continental reached out to me today to make it right - a gesture that I greatly appreciate.
Funnily enough, the response I received was not from the complaint that I filed Monday early afternoon through the company website. It was actually prompted by my blog post which detailed the problems I had and my thoughts on the customer service I had (or rather hadn't) received. My co-worker had gotten a message on his cell phone for me, because when the reservation had been found, it was the number attached to our itinerary.
Christine from Continental was not only apologetic - a response I had been seeking throughout the travel ordeal - but she was sympathetic and empathetic. These qualities can go a long way when someone feels wronged by a particular service. She listened to what I had to say and explained that they could issue me a travel voucher for the outbound part of my trip (which, for those of you non-fliers out there, means they would give me part of the cost back for my trip home). Not only that, but when she asked about my co-worker that I had been traveling with, I was able to tell her that there were four of us traveling together. She said she would issue vouchers to them as well.
I will take back part of what I said the other day, with a qualifier - I know now that Continental can in fact provide a level of customer service that I would expect from an airline, but I hope this continues and doesn't only apply to people who post opinions in open forums. It did not take them long (two days, approximately) to reach out to me on my blog post, and obviously they took note of the post because they knew that my bag had been recovered and other details. Even if Christine was reading the post right then when we were on the phone, she at least was putting effort into making it better.
As someone who has worked in customer service and still does to some degree through social media and online communications, I can say that it's not always easy to know how to respond to someone when they are irate and irrational. Although I have had time to calm down from the other day, I think Christine and Continental helped me to feel even more at ease about their company. Christine also suggested that if I have further complaints to call her directly. This is key, because it makes me feel like I matter and I am important to them as a customer, even though there are thousands of others who fly their airline every day.
While I do believe United/Continental could still improve their customer service, I wanted to let you know that I appreciated the effort they put into my case, and I look forward to changes they make in their services as they continue with their merger. I think utilizing social media (much like Delta does with @DeltaAssist) would be extremely beneficial, and opening the door to give people a chance to connect to them - whether it be good or bad - will only strengthen the system.
In a world where people are connected all the time, it's important to reach out and acknowledge what people are saying about your brand. Sometimes I have to respond to negative comments but when I do, people are often surprised and will go out of their way to say that they were glad to someone was listening. Having that listening ear in the wide open spaces of the internet is sometimes what it takes to turn a person into a brand believer.
Have you ever been surprised to find that someone online was listening to what you had to say? How does it make you feel when a company tries to right a wrong?