How United Airlines’ Customer Service System Ruined My DMA07 Conference (and What Catalogers Can Learn from My Experience)
As the editor of a publication that covers the catalog/multichannel business, I don’t really have any business devoting a column like this to an airline. But having just endured one of the worst nightmares of my life, I believe catalogers who rely on offshore, third-party customer service reps might care to take note.
My saga started on Sunday, Oct. 14, shortly after I arrived at O’Hare Airport in Chicago for the DMA07 conference. As I waited at the baggage claim carousel for my garment bag containing three suits and assorted other precious items (to me), for some reason I thought to look at that little baggage stub they staple to your ticket envelope when you check bags. You know, the strip they wrap around the handle of your luggage. It showed a name and flight number that wasn’t mine. Immediately, I bolted for the lost baggage desk nearby.
The woman there, an American who spoke perfectly good English (and who’d be the last rep I’d be able to understand easily for the next day and a half — and who’d easily understand me), was cold as ice. No apologies, just a curt “fill out this form.” I was bothering her; shame on me. I handed her the wrong bag tag, she tapped her fingers a few times on her keyboard and somehow concluded that my bag never left Westchester Airport in White Plains, N.Y., from which I’d left. She took my filled-out form, added some details of her own, kept my wrong bag tag, circled an 800 number on my half of the form and told me to call that number if I wanted to see how they were progressing in the alleged search for my garment bag.
I asked her about how soon or just how my bag would ever make it there, and she was totally noncommittal. She kept referring me to this oh-so-valuable 800 number and, of course, United’s Web site. I reluctantly made my way for the cab line at O’Hare.