Thursday, November 5, 2009

Consumer Friendly Businesses in an Unfriendly Recession

Yesterday I shared an experience I had wit the banking conglomerate Bank of America. Now I wonder, "Will it cause Bank of America to change their policies? Will I get a call from a B of A executive apologizing for the way I was treated by one of their supervisors?" I doubt it. And that's my point. Consumers are feeling more and more powerless in the face of corporate giants.

Over and over I keep dealing with customer representatives who send out the same message: We don't care about our customers. We're here to ratchet up service fees, apply late charges, increase interest rates, provide lousy service and fail to return our customer's phone calls and emails.

How can certain business like Us Airways, Enterprise, Sprint telephone, Time Warner Cable and many others expect to stay in business treating customers this way at a time when the consumer needs some compassion - not government sponsored freebies.

Furthermore, I do not want the government to FORCE companies through legislation to show care for their clients. I would like to see companies do this on their own. No more government intervention.

Here's my latest example. On a recent trip to Florida to visit my parents I was scheduled on US Airways for a one hour layover in Charlotte, N.C. It turns out the flight was cancelled due to bad weather in N.C. I had to spend an entire day in an airport waiting for the next flight to Charlotte and then make one more connecting flight to Ft. Lauderdale.

The morning of the flight I received several call from US Airways telling me the flight was delayed 105 minutes. So I had some time to make it to the airport. Yet when I arrived at the airport ninety minutes before the delayed flight was slotted to take off, I was told by a ticket agent that I missed the flight. I was late. I responded, "But the flight departure time is not for another hour and a half. How can I be late?" She told me I was supposed to be at the airport an hour before the original flight time. "But the original flight time was changed according to all the voice mails I been receiving from US Airways," I continued. "Now I am here at the airport with an hour and a half to spare. I am not late!!" She finally admitted, "And the flight has been cancelled." Was I going crazy?

Upon arriving at Charlotte eight hours after the original flight was supposed to land, I went around to the various workers at new stands, Starbucks and ticket counters at other airlines. I asked, "Was the Charlotte airport closed this morning prohibiting flights from landing. The answer I kept hearing was negative. One cashier told me there was a fog bank early that morning but it cleared by 8 a.m. - two hours before my flight was scheduled to take off. What did US Airways do? Cancel a flight for no reason? I spent an entire day at an airport because of US Airways.

To the phone . . . I tried to contact US Airways when I returned to Los Angeles. I was instructed to register all complaints using their customer service support page on their website. I was assured I would hear from a US Airways representative within 72 hours. It's been two weeks and I haven't heard a peep. Then I called their corporate headquarters in Tempe, AZ (480 693 0800). I left two or three messages asking for a return call from their Customer Relations Department. I've heard nothing. I even wonder if this department even exists.

What gives with companies today? Even in a recession where the middle class is hurting and the poor are getting all kinds of government (tax paid) benefits, you would think companies would show some attentiveness to the consumer. How about a returned phone call for starters?

Two companies that stand out from the rest are Starbucks and Southwest Airlines. Read Howard Schultz' book Pour Your Heart Into It and the book Nuts, the story of Southwest Airlines. These two companies "get it" in the way they treat their employees and the consumer. They will ride out the recession. My advice is to only fly Southwest and let the others die a slow death. So what if we're stuck with one airline. Southwest would expand, add more flights and continue to treat the customer with care and wisdom.

Will I ever hear from US Airways? Probably not. They're just hoping I will go away after making repeated calls to their corporate Customer Relations Department. Not this time. Consumers must revolt by calling companies on the carpet and force them to treat us with class and concern.

1 comment:

Louis Lapides said...

I did receive a callback from US Airways, to their credit. I also received an email which is posted below. I still am unable to figure out the weather situation in Charlotte on the day of my flight.

Dear Mr. Lapides:

I sincerely apologize for the inconvenience you experienced when Flight 3114 was cancelled due to weather issues. You have every right to expect our flights to operate as scheduled. We certainly don't intend to cause difficulties for our customers and realize that any service failure, even when weather is involved, creates a negative impression of our company.

Deteriorated weather conditions made flying to Charlotte an impossibility. It became apparent an improvement in this situation was not going to happen. Safety considerations are paramount to all concerned and override flight schedules. We realize this was a frustrating situation; however, the flight was cancelled for safety reasons.

Since weather is beyond control of the airline, we are unable to issue compensation for your inconvenience.

Again, thank you for contacting US Airways. We appreciate your giving us the opportunity to explain our position. Thank you for understanding.


Representative, Customer Relations
US Airways Corporate Office