It Has Been Rough With United, but I’m Staying For Now Because of Jeff Smisek

By Lakshmi:

For many years now, our entire family has been loyal to the Continental brand, including the airline and their credit cards.  We have varying levels of elite status and now with the takeover, we have been forced to transfer our loyalties to United.  Like the multitude of customers who have cribbed and screamed about the integration woes, we felt the pain first hand.  Missed upgrades, special meals not showing up, reward errors, plane delays, we faced all this and more.  One weekend, my husband (A Platinum 1K) and I (Gold) decided that we were going to take advantage of some of the competing status matches to see if our loyalty would be better rewarded.

That was the weekend we were forced to be on the phone with United to resolve an award issue involving passengers on multiple itineraries.  Despite regular calls to the United 1K line, we got little in terms of service till we were close to pulling our hair out.  That’s when we found Jeannete Vasta.  Jeannette stayed on the phone, gave us tips, got each of the tickets sorted out and we did not realize till we bid adieu that she had stayed much past her shift end time to help us out.  We got amazing service and since Jeff Smisek had claimed to read customer emails, I decided to pen a note to applaud Jeannette.  The note outlined our ongoing frustrations post integration and how employees like Jeannette were key to keeping customers.  Within 30 minutes I got a response back….from the man himself.  Now, that is pretty impressive.  There is many a CEO who claims to be close to customers, but this one was proving it to me.  I had a new-found respect for Mr. Smisek and the challenges he was encountering.

Fast forward three months, and I had just spotted a promotion involving United’s credit card on their website.  If you spent $1,000 within a specified time, you would get 5,000 points.  My husband and I signed up and blogged about it as well.  Within a few days, the travel blogosphere was lighting up with complaints.  Some said United had withdrawn the offer.  We checked and for a few days, the offer was no longer there.  Then we heard that United had amended the terms and conditions sneakily to now limit the offer to those outside the US.  And sadly that was true.

Thus for the second time in three months, I penned a note to Jeff Smisek.  I told him about the journey.  I relayed how tactics like this were not helping me be loyal to brand United.  And I included screenshots of the old and new offers.  I was disappointed when I did not hear back within 30 minutes!  But, now I know why.  Mr. Smisek had delegated it for investigation and today I got a call on behalf of him.  They had read my complaint, they were apologetic and they were making amends and ensuring we got the promised points.    Less than eight hours later, United had delivered on its promise.

As someone who is passionate about customer engagement, I have to say I am very impressed with Mr. Smisek’s responsiveness.  And if a CEO can work towards this during turbulent times, I would like to believe that United has a chance to wow and delight.  So for now, thanks to Mr. Smisek, I’m staying.

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