I just came home from my third transatlantic flight in 2 months. I flew on Lufthansa, British Airways and United for various parts of the different trips and went through Heathrow, Munich, Frankfurt, St Petersburg, Moscow, JFK in NY and Boston Logan. I stayed in local hotels and US branded ones. ( and no, this is not an airline rant post). Airtravel - actually, travel in general - provides so many opportunities for service interaction and expectation setting, that the past 2 months have just been filled with great vignettes to replay back out.
Today's post is about a company - United Airlines - trying to do the right thing and just missing the mark completely. I don't fly United very often - maybe once a year - so on the last flight from Moscow to Washington Dulles - I was pleasantly surprised when the flight attendants handed out customer appreciation cards to all the passengers in coach, as an apology for not having the video system working correctly. (it is a 11 hour flight and the system was down for about 5 hours of it). The card has a code on it and it says "Please accept our apology" and then goes on to tell you that you can select a token of our appreciation for your patience and understanding ... blah, blah, blah. (you can see the card below).
This was a really nice idea and I didn't know what to expect - maybe a drink coupon or something with a United brand on it. Or maybe a way to donate $1.oo to my favorite charity. So I went to the website. What was the offer? $150 off my next full economy fare or 10% any international fare. So much for appreciation. So in order to get a thank you for being patient and inconvienced, I need to spend money with United - again.
The lesson I wanted to pass on is probably obvious, but I'll say it anyway, if you are going to set expectations with a customer that you are providing something of value - make sure it is actually valuable - having to spend money to get a discount isn't a token of appreciation, it is simply a marketing ploy - and a bad one at that. Nice try United, but you missed on this one by at least a continent.