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April 2012

Consumer Confidence, Loyalty
Gained with Personal Touchs


Proper customer service can set many businesses apart from their competitors.

Recently, I had a disappointing experience with United Airlines. My Denver flight was supposed to leave at 1:23 p.m. At 10:14 a.m. I received my first electronic notice saying that the flight was delayed to 3:57 p.m. I then kept my phone close at hand to keep track of any additional announcements.

Almost three hours later, at 1:05 p.m., the airline sent an electronic notice saying that my flight was leaving in 18 minutes. Considering the earlier notice, I had not yet left for the airport. I immediately called United Reservations, and after waiting on hold for 19 minutes, the reservations agent told me the electronic announcement system was “confusing” and that my flight was actually departing at 3:40 p.m.

While on hold with the United agent, I received several additional electronic notices saying my flight was departing at a variety of times, including 2:41 p.m. and 3:50 p.m. Following the phone call, I kept receiving electronic notices saying the flight was departing at other times. I decided to rely on the reservation agent’s information and went to the airport for the “3:40 p.m. flight,” which departed at 3:50 p.m.

Earlier in the week with another airline (Delta), I received a series of confusing electronic notices, including one saying that my flight was cancelled. However, the flight actually departed at its regularly scheduled time, and I made that departure.

Electronic notices can be valuable if there is a flight delay or cancellation. However, the United and Delta systems do not appear to be working 100 percent. You might want to keep that in mind as you prepare for upcoming flights. I hope both airlines get their notification systems working properly very soon.

There were two different customer-service events I recently experienced that had very different outcomes. First, while shopping at a large Rochester, Minnesota, lumber and retail consumer store, I stepped on a screw that punctured both my shoe and foot. I attempted to report the incident to the store manager and, despite the best efforts of the sales clerk, the manager failed to appear. I left and then reported the incident to the store’s customer service department by e-mail. I did not seek compensation but rather wanted the store to know about the hazard. I was told there would be a quick response. That was several months ago; still nothing.

By contrast, I purchased a defective product from a Minneapolis Home Depot just before the Christmas Holiday and I reported the defect to the store manager by e-mail. He phoned within several hours to talk about the defect, offered an apology and a gift card for more than the cost of the purchase, and he said he had arranged for the Madison store manager to drive the replacement item to my home. Unlike the earlier store, the Home Depot’s quick response was impressive, and I’ll keep shopping there.     



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