Redemption, Thy name is US Airways
Okay, so it’s been awhile since I blogged. Chalk it up to too much work and too much travel. The last several months have been extraordinarily busy. After a conference in Scotland, with our EMEA partners, I was asked to reach out more frequently on my perspective in the world of social media at large. Frankly, I’ve tried to remain under the radar in this category simply because there are too many “experts” out there that taint the value of folks with the real world knowledge on how new media really works or in some cases, doesn’t.
After four social media focused conferences (with another one to go), it’s time to start adding my voice to the melee. Here goes…
Yesterday, after my 4th conference (in as many weeks) talking about social media, I was on my way back from Las Vegas. If you want to check out the conversation – go to Twitter and search on #hrcamericas. You’ll get the drift. BUT…my story is not about teaching folks to have a conversation in Twitter, it’s about my day interacting with @UsAirways.
I arrive at McCarron Airport by 7:00am where I am directed to check in using one of their kiosks. Now, I’m keen on evaluating the user experience as we are designing a kiosk experience for our Loyalty program. After a relatively simple process, I get to the magical time where the airline tries to bilk you for extra money on checking bags. It’s a crappy practice to create a revenue stream to pay for outsourcing 3rd party labor to load baggage on to the consumer and I was presented with a dilemma: do I check my carry on bag or drag it through the terminal? My concern was exacerbated by the fact that I had a small bag of leftover t-shirts (social media branded) that I had to bring back with me across the country because I (stupidly) did not give them out earlier. Now, I have my computer filled backpack, a small carry on suitcase and a tiny bag with 5 t-shirts. What to do knowing that @UsAirways are not kind about helping travellers out with more than TWO carry-ons. It was a dilemma to be certain. Unfortunately, when I got the to the user experience to pay for bags, I was going to be charged $25 to check the first bag. (Honestly, US Airways, this blows and the main reason I never want to fly with you again.) But again I digress…
I decided to take my chances and not check it.
I get to my gate and figured that I need to share with 200 of my new social media disciples that I use Foursquare just like I told them to do. Getting out my phone and navigating to the app, I search for “Nearby Places” and lo, my gate location appears. Before I check in, I decide to review the tips left behind by former travelers. WOW! I read this:
July 16 and no one responded from US Airways.
I am impressed.
Not a few minutes later, I receive this tweet:
Hmmm….that someone went to soooo much trouble to not only create a hater twitter account but to actually follow the tweets & respond was also pretty impressive on the passion of disillusionment this person had with the brand.
Running out of time to respond, I have to board my return flight home. The Gate agent comes on the loud speaker to tell the traveler’s that only TWO carryons are allowed. Again, the dilemma looms….will I get to take my little bag on or will I be forced to check my bag. As I make my way to the check-in, Mr. Grumpy Butts at Gate C12 (Flight 1765) shouts at me that I need to step out of line and condense my t-shirts or check my bag. Frankly, it’s probably the rudest anyone has ever spoken to me from an airline. (Now, a second reason never to fly with them again). I have been embarrassed in front of the line and as haughtily as I can manage I tell him to check my bag which irritates him further. I draw a little satisfaction on his annoyance. He grudgingly tags my bag and with an arched eyebrow to him, I turn and journey down the jetway. When I get to the end, I actually warred in my head whether I should just take my bag on the flight or leave it on the jetway. Given what a rude jerk he was, I decided to leave it and get on the plane. The First Class flight attendant greeted me as I walked on and asked me kindly if I was having a “good day” to which I replied “No, actually not.” In rather a shocked reply, the flight attendant said “Oh, I hope it gets better” to which I reply “Actually, it’s your gate agent, who is quite a jerk and made an otherwise good day quite bad”. Flummoxed, the poor flight attendant just murmured something unintelligible as I walked away and found my seat. Now, another crappy practice that US Airways has is charging for seats in the front. I paid extra to be in row 7. I didn’t get any extra leg room, nor even a window for my window seat. (Now, a third reason not to fly with them again). I place my little bag of t-shirts under the seat and put my backpack up above.
After another safe flight home (and let’s be honest….any flight that lands without a problem is a “safe” flight home), I arrive at my final destination.
Since it’s quite late and it’s not only been a long week, it’s been a long day flying, I now have to go to bag claim to retrieve my bag instead of going straight home. My irritation with Mr. Grumpy Butts has returned. Oh well, not his fault since I tried to game their system. I get my bags and reach into my backpack for my car key. No key. Frantically, I unload EVERYTHING out of my bag. No key. Shit. Did I lose it on the Vegas flight? Did I lose it in the Charlotte airport? Did I lose it on the flight home? Shit. I call my husband and eat some crow to ask him to come bring me another key to the car. Ironically, last week, I had to drive 60 miles to bring him another key to his car and didn’t let him forget it. Now, I have to beg his indulgence to come and help me. Sadly, the irony was not lost on him either. But…as he is the better person than I, he got on his way to bring me a key. In the meantime, I had a thought to check with the US Airways lost baggage department.
Now, these poor folks have possibly the worst job in the world. Everyone who comes to you is upset and pissed that they don’t have their bags. There can’t ever be a good day. There is a gentleman behind the counter who kindly greets me as I come in. I let him know that I have not lost my bag but rather my car key and would like to know the process in which to locate it. He started filling out an incident report to gather my flight numbers when he decided to just call out to my arrival gate to ascertain if they had found the key. To my utter delight, they did INDEED find my key!!! The kindly lost baggage clerk gave me a temporary boarding pass so that I could pass security and get back out to the gate to retrieve my key. I rushed through the airport and made it out to the gate where my car key was gratefully retrieved. As I got back to the lost luggage counter to retrieve my carry on suitcase, backpack and small bag of t-shirts that I had left behind for my O.J. through the airport, I profusely thanked not only the clerk but the two others who joined them. I was so grateful that when I picked up my bag of t-shirts, I had a thought.
At the conference, I had taught the audience that it’s a great idea to delight a customer by a random act of kindness. Here was an opportunity to practice what I preached. I reached into the little bag that had caused me so much trouble with the Charlotte Gate Agent and withdrew three t-shirts and gave them to the lost luggage clerks as a thanks for helping me find my car key. Not only were they surprised, they were happy to have gotten an unexpected gift. It was a fitting close to a very long day that ended with a much happier customer.
Got to love them for trying….
“Can’t stop the gods from engineering, Feel no need for any interfering” Red Hot Chili Peppers – Can’t Stop”