My post last Friday about US Airways pulling my 81,000+ frequent flyer miles and the ensuing customer service disaster (link) got a lot more attention that I had ever expected. The story circulated around Twitter, Facebook, and even wound up at a number of blogs (including the mega-popular “Consumerist” blog). Since then, three big things have happened:

(1) 358 people had posted comments with their own US Airways customer service nightmare stories.

(2) On Friday, a number of US Airways representatives had contacted me by email, via Twitter (as seen above), and they even telephoned my office. I’m currently working with US Airways Director of Customer Loyalty & Marketing Programs who has offered to reinstate my miles, and credit me for the flights that didn’t get credited, which is more than fair, since after all, it was my fault.

>> Note: the first US Airways representative that contacted me was the wife of a photographer who reads my blog and saw what had happened. She works in the Dividend Miles group and offered to help me right away.

(3) In researching my flights, I learned that I had actually taken at least two US Airways flights this year—in 2010 (again, my travel agent apparently did not include my Dividend Miles number. I would call to complain, but that agency moved to a different state, and now a different agency handles our corporate travel). By the way, Matt Kloskowski did the math and figured that our company buys nearly 1,000 flights each year.

In the normal course of business of running an airline as large as US Airways, I’m sure this was all barely a blip on their radar, but I do hope those at US Airways who took the time to read my post, and/or respond, they keep these things in mind :

(1) If we don’t want to do business with a company, that company will never hear from us again. However, if we call, and we’re trying to work something out with you (like I was in trying to get my miles reinstated), that means “We still want to use your service.” This is a decision point for the company —“Our customer is upset, but obviously still wants to use our service. Should we make a sincere effort to try and keep him, or hand deliver him to our competitors?”

(2) Everyone I’ve dealt with at US Airways since that post on Friday has (of course) been great and very helpful, so obviously not everyone at US Airways is as unhelpful and unfriendly as the woman I originally dealt with. That’s a good thing.

(3) US Airways still has a problem. It’s one of two things: (a) US Airways hasn’t empowered their customer service reps to do anything other than read a script. Even if the customer gets upset—they can’t call a supervisor and get them involved to resolve the customer’s issue, or (b) they have empowered them to do more, in which case this was a broken customer service rep, who wanted to be right more than she wanted to help the customer or her company. In which case, I hope they have a record of who I talked with, and I hope they show her the door, because US Airways shouldn’t be paying her to lose their customers.

(4) US Airways has a computer system that shows a history of all the flights I book with them, and they know I’m a member of their Dividend Miles program. It’s 2010—If a customer books a flight and they forget to enter their Dividend Miles number, can’t you have the computer apply it to their record automatically? This would have saved us all a lot of time and frustration.

(5) I am well aware that the only reason I’m getting my miles reinstated (it’s not done yet, of course) is because of the power of social media. If I didn’t have this blog, a Twitter following and Facebook fan page, I’d only be flying Delta and United from here on out.

I’m grateful for all my reader’s comments, for everyone who contacted US Airways on my behalf, and for everyone who retweeted, “liked” it on Facebook, or otherwise spread the story. I also realize it’s not fair that I got my miles reinstated, when so many others who posted similar horror stories didn’t. I think in this case it was a matter of the squeaky wheel getting the grease, and you guys helped me make a lot more noise than I ever could alone, so a sincere thanks to you all.

This is what it comes down to:
How many times have you taken a flight and heard the Captain, or the Flight Attendant say, “We know you have a choice when it comes to air travel, so we thank you for flying [insert your airline here]?” That what’s this was all about. Choice. It’s clear—I was wrong—I didn’t properly manage my Dividend Miles account, but this wasn’t about who was right or wrong (because we know, I was wrong). This was about me making a choice about who I choose when it comes to air travel, and part of that decision was going to be based on how I’m treated, even when I mess up. Do you “nail me” or forgive me? Do we move ahead and still do business, or do we part ways forever?

It’s about respecting us—your customers
If you want us to use your products, treat us like you want us to use your products. Sometimes exceptions to policies have to be made to keep a customer, and companies need to empower their Customer Service reps to use reasonable judgment when dealing with their customers. Don’t read us a script. Listen to us. If we’re complaining, it’s because we’re still want to use your product or service, but you’re making us think twice, or driving us away entirely.

Business is too hard to come by right now. Every customer matters. Just treat us like we do, and we’ll send you money. It’s as easy as that.

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About The Author

Scott is the President of KelbyOne, an online educational community for Photographers, Photoshop and Lightroom users. He's editor and publisher of Photoshop User Magazine, Conference Technical Chair for the Photoshop World Conference, and the author of a string of bestselling Photoshop, Lightroom, and photography books.