The Good, the Bad and the Ugly of Customer Satisfaction.

To borrow a theme from one of Clint Eastwood’s movies, here are three real examples of good, bad and ugly customer satisfaction cases.

Let’s start in reverse order with the ugly.   A friend of mine had a home mortgage with Washington Mutual and his payments were automatically withdrawn from his checking account each month. One month he started receiving notices from his bank that he was bouncing checks all over the place.

After a lengthy investigation, he determined that Washington Mutual had started taking out additional monies from his checking account without even notifying him.  With further investigation, he determined that Washington Mutual had either lost or corrupted his account information and thus assumed he owed more money each month. This situation went on for months with communication between my friend, Washington Mutual and Washington Mutual’s legal department with no resolution in sight. Meanwhile, he had to keep covering the additional deductions from his checking account. Finally with a notice from his lawyer, Washington Mutual admitted they had made a mistake and corrected the account charges.  There were no apologies, no “we are sorry” letters, and no reimbursement from the accrued finance charges or bounce fees.  Months later my friend switched to another mortgage company. As Doctor Phil would say “What were you (Washington Mutual) THINKING??”   Does Washington Mutual have any vague idea about customer satisfaction?  It must be great to have so many customers that you don’t care what they think about your company and it does not hurt to lose a few each month.

The Bad. I recently booked business class ticket for an international flight with United Airlines.

On my return flight, I arrived at the airport and discovered that my flight was canceled.  Being a seasoned traveler, I did not panic but thought it strange that United did not notify me about the cancelation ahead of time.  Anyways after a lot of “discussion”, United, booked me on another flight BUT with one problem, United “lost” my business class reservation and had to place me in coach and with multiple connections.  Needless to say sitting in coach for 17 hours, having my luggage lost, and racing from one terminal to another did not make me a happy camper.

Now for the customer satisfaction part, not only did United not reimburse me for the total in   the difference between coach and business class, I received no thank you, only a discount coupon that had hundreds of constraints attached to it.  Again, where is the customer satisfaction within United?  Why not have a follow up survey or phone call to first express their concern and let me know they really care.  Why not a future ticket or coupon for money to be used at my discretion.   You would think with the economy the way it is and the trouble the airlines are in, that they would do everything to make customers satisfied.

For the reader, you probably already guessed, that I will tell anyone that will listen about my recommendation regarding United.  Here is a case where United could have gained a loyal customer but instead, has the potential for hundreds, maybe thousands hearing about what one traveler thinks about United.  Also remember the singer and how United breaks his guitar (YouTube, 11M hits so far). Guess, United still has not improved in the area of customer satisfaction!

Now the Good, on a completely different trip, which was a domestic flight to Florida, my wife and I wanted to get on an early flight because of a pending snow storm.  What follows is not really good customer satisfaction, but great customer satisfaction.

Upon arriving at the terminal, a US Airways porter takes our luggage because of the tremendous amount of people at the airport.  At the ticket counter, we asked if there were early flights, the agent first asked us if we had checked our baggage, to which we said yes.  He informed us that since we had already checked our baggage, we could not switch flights, to which we said , Oh, the porter said don’t worry about checking you can change flights anyway, and then I said, we understand, thanks anyways and proceeded to check in with the original flight.  We took our tickets and started to walk away when the ticket agent called us back and said, “Let me see if I can rearrange things for you.”  After about 10 minutes, not only did he get us on an early flight, but found our baggage and rerouted them AND put us in first class.  My wife was so overwhelmed that she almost reached over and kissed the agent.  This experience was about two months ago and my wife and I still talk about it when the topic of traveling comes up and of course we mention US Airways.  Talk about free advertising and wonderful customer satisfaction.

In today’s environment, with instant communication, social media and a very well informed customer, customer satisfaction should be a high priority within any company AND someone and/ or a department should be listening and responding to the customer for the good , bad and ugly situation.   Some believe that customer satisfaction in one of the few differentiations between your company and your competitors.      Who is in charge of customer satisfaction at your enterprise?


RHL 2/15/12


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