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OMG! Airline telephone service from bad to worst
Old 06-06-2013, 12:00 PM   #1
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OMG! Airline telephone service from bad to worst

This is not exactly a revelation to many, but my recent dealings with United Airline customer service has become a comical travesty. Due to my recent surgery, I needed to cancel my flight. Per their protocol, I sent an MD letter with the request to waive the cancellation fee. Start to finish (i.e., to date) I have called them 5 times so far.
Each of the 5 times, the rep has a STRONG Indian accent. I presume Indian, but in any event the accent was clearly from that part of the world. Problem is with the accent. At least 3 of the calls I could not understand the rep; more importantly, the rep could not understand me. Why are they staffing these phones with people who do not understand American English (in my case, tinged with Brooklyn NY accent)?
I have had to explain what I want multiple times, because the rep kept answering a question I didn't ask. Clearly, he or she was working off of a cheat sheet and not listening to anything I said.
I am now on hold, for call # 5, for 15 minutes and counting. DW and I have combined 160,000 frequent flyer miles, so I might be stuck with them for the near term. If I can get over my "cheapskateness," I might forego those free flights for a different airline.
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Old 06-06-2013, 12:59 PM   #2
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How do you s a y let me speak to your supervisor? Explain what's going on with the language barrier. Most companies that outsource call centers reward employees with better language skills(and the ones that don't get better!).
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Old 06-06-2013, 01:05 PM   #3
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Can you also use email to resolve this, and keep going up the chain and thus have an electronic "paper" trail? What will the phone calls accomplish if you didn't encounter a problem with the language skills?
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Old 06-06-2013, 01:19 PM   #4
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Increasingly it is more profitable to provide crappy but legally-compliant customer service rather than high quality customer service. We consumers have done a great job chasing all the good service out of the marketplace with our overwhelming preference for the low-cost provider.
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Old 06-06-2013, 02:59 PM   #5
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Sort-of update: I hung up after 25 minutes on hold, then sent a firmly worded complaint email to United's "Customer Care" site. I got the automated email reply acknowledging my email and now have to presume someone will read it and resolve my issue.
I had to call because the (again, automated) status of my pending refund request gave a gobbledy-gook comment that there is an error and to call United Customer Service. 'Round and 'round; I've come full circle and at this point no closer to resolution.
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Old 06-06-2013, 03:00 PM   #6
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United has a lot of international flights, so their call center is going to have a lot of 'foreigners' for most of the world. Still, this is not an excuse for bad service.
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Old 06-06-2013, 03:07 PM   #7
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Just another reason that makes me glad I don't fly anymore. I've watched the airline services (in general all of them) go from what I thought was pretty good in the early 70's when I started to fly a lot, to really very poor when I stopped flying just a few years ago. These days, if I can drive to wherever I going, I'll do it. If I can't drive for some reason then I'll think twice if I really need to go. Of course it's a lot easier to drive a 1000+ miles these day now that I'm retired and not tied to a timeline.
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Old 06-06-2013, 03:11 PM   #8
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I recently flew Delta and I have to say the entire crew was very nice and helpful. I sat next to an old lady in Ecomony who could not do much for herself. She asked for some extra tea. The attendant from First Class came back to here with a nice tea service, on a silver plate with a pot of hot water and a choice of teas. I thought that showed a real good attitude.
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Old 06-06-2013, 03:22 PM   #9
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That sounds like my recent experience with United customer service, relayed in a previous thread:

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I flew United from my home in Canada to Maui with a connection in LAX. I found that I was unable to check in online. I called United customer service and was given an unintelligible explanation by someone with broken English and a foreign (?Phillipino) accent. I had booked the ticket through a travel agent and it was a Sunday so no possibility of help there. I then called Air Canada customer service as that was the issuing airline. I immediately received a clear explanation in plain English. When I remarked how confusing my call to United had been, the agent replied "yes, we are hearing that a lot". As for the flights, things went smoothly and safely. I am flying back to LAX tomorrow night with United so hopefully all will go well.
I think customers need to boycott companies that do not provide the "service" that they deserve. Reduced market share and profits are the best way to influence corporate decisions. Outsourcing only works when basic communication needs are met.
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Old 06-06-2013, 04:29 PM   #10
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Have you tried requesting customer service USA? Sometimes,the foreign part and connect you a domestic center........not sure about UAL......but I've done that successfully w/ a bank.
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Old 06-07-2013, 12:03 AM   #11
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My most recent experience with customer non-service:
DS's 6am flight back to school after spring break was cancelled. The airline (Delta) notified me (because I booked the flight) by e-mail around 9pm the day before (good). It suggested I try to rebook online, which I tried with nothing but error messages. Called their phone line. The message said that it would be 8 hours before my call was answered (!) so I put in a request to have a callback. They actually rebooked him behind the scenes (with no notification - I had to check the website) and when I called back to cancel the callback request, they said the wait time would be 14 hours! Worse than useless on the phone side, but on the plus side, he was rebooked and did get back at a reasonable time.
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Old 06-07-2013, 05:54 AM   #12
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Social media - tweet to the airline that you are not happy. Someone will reply to you and take care of it. Companies don't like public complaints.
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Old 06-07-2013, 08:49 AM   #13
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No point in blaming customer service reps. They are just doing the job as they are told to. They do not have any flexibility, at least in India. Being an Indian (although moved out abt 13 years ago, still have some of the family members there), my brother's wife worked briefly at similar positions. There is a sort of informationpedia for everyone to access to, what answers to be provided. Many a times, they also understand that the kind of service they provide is plain stupid and not helping the customers at all but they hardly have any authority to ride over what that informationpedia says.

On the top of that, all calls are recorded (not too sure now but this was around 2005-2006) and are screened at random. Anybody going over their 'authority' get demoted or even fired.

The options,
- disconnect ASAP when you realize it isn't going anywhere
- call up again after some time and hoping to get someone else on the line
- ask for the supervisor
- lately, use social media like facebook or twitter.

These corporations know, they can get away with this sort of stuff because they are in-charge. You can not practically boycott United, can you? And even if you do, how much business do you give them really (even though you have few thousands miles)? If you are a corporate traveler, then channel the complaint through that. I used to do that when I used to travel for work. I would channel personal complaint through corporate system and it ALWAYS worked.
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Old 06-07-2013, 09:25 AM   #14
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Increasingly it is more profitable to provide crappy but legally-compliant customer service rather than high quality customer service. We consumers have done a great job chasing all the good service out of the marketplace with our overwhelming preference for the low-cost provider.


I don't put it on the consumer..... I did not ask that the food be downgraded to crap... I did not ask that they make my space where I sit smaller.... I did not ask that they outsource their call center to a place that does not have people who can do anything.... THEY decided to do this... hoping that they do not lose more revenue than the savings they made...


I used Continental before the merger... it was a good airline.... I would use them even if they cost a bit more money.... why Because I knew they were good and would take care of the customer... heck, there were many times when I would get to the airport earlier and an earlier flight had not left... I could just walk up to the boarding gate and if there were seats... they would let me on... not today... there is a change fee involved... (note: there was a change fee when I did it, but that was for a reservation change, not an at the gate change)...

Now that Continental is part of United.... they are crap... instead of bringing United up, they brought Continental down... however, they still are one of the largest (if not the largest) airline....


So, now if I can, I use another airline.... but where I live that is not often...
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Old 06-07-2013, 09:34 AM   #15
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I don't put it on the consumer.....
I didn't. I put it on "we consumers". We did it together, collectively. And now we suffer the consequences. The businesses like this are actually doing what they're supposed to. They are corporations, not people, and so soft matters such as what's right and good don't come into play: Corporations are required to optimize shareholder value by capitalization of marketplace opportunities, constrained only by their capabilities and the law.

The problem is that consumers began behaving like corporations instead of like people, focusing on the bottom line and the bare minimum of what they could get away with within the law. That prompted their service providers to "rush to the bottom", appealing to consumers' baser instincts (i.e., the lowest possible cost, for example) without regard to matters consumers didn't care about until it was too late (quality, service, reliability, durability, etc.)

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I did not ... I did not ... I did not ...
If you ever made a decision based on price over other considerations, then you contributed to the way things are. And if you never did, then you're too small of a minority to have had any impact on the marketplace.
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Old 06-07-2013, 05:03 PM   #16
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Just an isolated data point, but when we flew United to europe last spring they were actually quite helpful.

Our original booking was "automatically" changed since the flight time changed enough that our connection through Dulles wouldn't work any longer. The automatic change was rather lame - it added in some very long layovers. I called them with an alternate itinerary and they were OK with that change since the automatic one was ridiculous.

Once the change was in the system, Orbitz' (we originally booked through Orbitz) and United's systems fought a bit and kept changing our booking back and forth. After talking with the folks at United, the correct itinerary "stuck" and all was well.

Finally, I had to re-pay for Economy Plus (the reason we wanted to Fly United in the first place - to get the extra leg room on the transatlantic flight). But after we got back, we used their web site to ask for a refund of the Economy Plus upgrade on the original flight and it all went through without problem. The money was credit to our credit card.

Now, this was an international flight, so maybe it's a different set of customer service people, but they worked through our problem as best they could and to our satisfaction.
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Old 06-07-2013, 05:31 PM   #17
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Last week returned from Johannesberg via Atlanta on Delta. Flight was delayed leaving about 5-1/2 hours because the plane leaving Atlanta to fetch us was delayed avoiding weather, rules caught up with them and they had to get a new crew. So, it really wasn't Delta's fault (weather) but they sent me another 5,000 miles. Granted, I was not happy hanging around the airport anticipating a 16 hour flight, but the 5,000 miles was a nice gesture I didn't expect. Oh, but the $12 meal voucher? Was plenty in SA for a meal but they wouldn't accept it for my beer! Indeed! Why should Delta care whether I eat or drink a beer with their meal voucher??

Didn't have to fly a lot while working, do more now. But I sure don't look forward to it. Unfortunately both DS and DD live abroad (grandchildren in London) so a lot of flying in our future. Ugh.
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Old 06-07-2013, 05:54 PM   #18
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UPDATE: Two more calls today, and by luck spoke with a total of 3 reps from USA. After the first call, I submitted a "new" online refund request. But the refund confirmation number given me was the same as the original, which meant the original problem would remain.
I then faxed the same info......and United "wasn't accepting faxes" to their dedicated fax machine for refund requests. You just can't make this stuff up.
I called again, had a cow on the phone with the unfortunate rep I was speaking with. She was smart enough to realize this had to be fixed. I was transferred to real live person in refunds, who on the spot found my refund request and processed it then and there.
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Old 06-07-2013, 06:44 PM   #19
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If this isn't the end of it, perhaps it's time to go to social media!

http://youtu.be/5YGc4zOqozo

http://www.amazon.ca/United-Breaks-G.../dp/1401937934
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Old 06-07-2013, 08:03 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bUU View Post
Increasingly it is more profitable to provide crappy but legally-compliant customer service rather than high quality customer service. We consumers have done a great job chasing all the good service out of the marketplace with our overwhelming preference for the low-cost provider.
Explain Apple, Inc.

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