American Airlines just doesn’t get it

Recommendations, or not — Sean Bonner @ 4:52 pm
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Seriously, I couldn’t make this stuff up if I tried.

So just for a quick recap, I’ve been an American Airlines AAdvantage member at Platinum status for years. Years. On my most recent flight there was some kind of confusion where I was getting different stories from different employees so I sent a note to their web customer service form asking to clear it up. I received a boilerplate reply answering a different question, which included a note saying you couldn’t reply to that letter. Rather that start over from scratch I called them and all hell broke loose, you can read the whole story here. In the midsts of my ranting, I said something on twitter and whoever writes the American Airlines twitter account responded saying they wanted to help. I sent them my AAdvantage number and said I’d filed a complaint, they responded saying someone from Customer Service would likely want to contact me. I replied telling them they had my account info and if someone wanted to contact me they had my e-mail.

Since I didn’t hear anything within the hour I assumed I wouldn’t, however I was wrong as I just received a note from them. A note that is so amazingly bad and such evidence that they totally miss the point at every step I had no choice but to post it here, with notations of course. Truly, this is a work of art.

from: American Airlines – AmericanAirlines.wecaare001 @aa.com
to: “SEANBONNER @GMAIL.COM”
date: Fri, Jun 4, 2010 at 11:07 PM
subject: R2010/06-04065-00293-001-00

I gotta jump in here for a second already as there are some gems not to be missed and we haven’t even gotten to the content of the letter yet. Check out the e-mail address this was sent from. “wecaare001.” With 2 A’s. So they care enough to be clever with the AA thing, but not enough to use a subject line is human readable and doesn’t look like some random string of crap spit out by a computer. Anyway…

Dear Mr. Bonner:

As an AAdvantage® elite member, you are among our most valued customers, so it is
particularly troubling to hear on our AAirways® Twitter Channel you were disappointed
by our service.

At first I thought this was a typo and when they typed “AAirways®” obviously they must have meant “@AAirways”, except that their account is “@AAirwaves”, but then I read the “Twitter Channel” part and realized it wasn’t a mistake at all, they just had no idea what they were talking about at all. I got this vivid image in my head of an old guy with a remote control that he probably calls a clicker shaking it at his TV screaming to a half deaf wife that the reception on his twitter channel needs adjusting, and that made me laugh, so at least I’m enjoying myself reading this.

If you would be kind enough to email me with the details, I would be happy to look
into the matter for you. Please send an email to my attention at
www.aa.com/customerrelations.

Whoah whoah whoah whoah!

Do you want me to send an e-mail or submit something via your contact form? Because I’ve already submitted something to the contact form and there is no way to direct it to anyone’s attention. So they care so much that they are e-mailing me and inviting me to use their public contact form to tell them about the problem that I already told them about via their public contact form? Brilliant. This also tells me they didn’t even look at my tweets or follow any links to my website.

Additionally, this doesn’t offer a solution, it says that he’ll look into it. So they want me to do more work with no promise of a resolution at all. I could spend 30 minutes writing up a new note for them only to have them respond telling me to stuff it, or maybe they’d send me another reply to something completely different again, further wasting my time. No thanks.

While space limitations are fairly standard in this
type of web format, please feel free to submit as many messages as you wish. Our
system automatically combines multiple messages from one customer. In other words,
we’ll be able to read all the important information and details that you have to share
with us.

Wow. So dear reader, do this math with me. They know that their contact form doesn’t provide enough space for someone to actually write something useful, but their system is smart enough to combine multiple messages from one customer as a workaround. Which for some reason makes more sense to them then simply taking off the text limit on their contact form? But also, it’s smart enough to combine those notes, but not smart enough to tell this customer service rep who is clearly looking at my account (to know that I have elite status and to get my e-mail so he could send me this note) that I already sent in something via that form just the other day? Or maybe it does, but for some reason this guy didn’t bother to look if I’ve submitted anything via their contact form. Or maybe the person who sent me the boiler plate answer to a question I didn’t ask marked my submission as ‘resolved’ and deleted it from their system. In any case, FAIL.

If you prefer, however, you can always send us a letter via U.S. mail or fax. Our fax
and mailing address information is:

Customer Relations
American Airlines
MD 2400, HDQ
PO Box ********
DFW Airport, TX 75261
Fax: 817-***-****

Maybe it’s just me, but I tend to think if someone is competent enough to use twitter and email, they probably aren’t rushing to use a Fax machine. It’s 2010 for crying out loud.

In addition, it might be helpful to know that when completing the Customer Relations
email form, much of your personal information can be “populated” for you if you
actually login to AA.com. From the home page, click the ‘Login’ button located on the
top of the navigation bar, then enter your AAdvantage® number and password. If you
don’t already have a password, after clicking ‘Login’ at the top of the home page,
select ‘Need a Password’ and then proceed.

Thank you for telling me something completely obvious, and for shedding more light on the fact that no one at AA can add 2 and 2 together. I’ve already submitted a note via the comment form, I purchase all my tickets online, I’ve redeemed miles online, and done all this while logged into my account. The same one tied to my e-mail and AAdvantage number that this guy had to look at before e-mailing me. Unbelievable.

Thank you for your cooperation and I look forward to assisting you.

Given the level of assistance I’ve received from AA in the last week, I highly doubt this will ever happen.

Sincerely,

Stephen ************
Customer Relations
American Airlines

Thanks Stephen, I’m sure you are just doing your job, but this e-mail is a nightmare. And now that we’ve had the closing line, we’re back into the boiler plate which is no less amusing.

For security purposes and to protect privacy, our process does not allow for
replies to this message. If we can assist you further, please let us know by
clicking http://www.aa.com/customerrelations.

There’s that bit about not replying. So there is no way to continue a thread, basically they are saying this is the final word and if for some reason you are thinking you have something to add, you have to go back to square one and submit a note on their public contact form which by this point you know if your time is at all valuable to you, isn’t worth it.

The information in this email is confidential and is intended solely for the
addressee(s); access to anyone else is unauthorized. If this message has been
sent to you in error, do not review, disseminate, distribute or copy it. If you
are not the intended recipient, please delete this email from your email system.

Oh man I love this one. Where do I even start? E-mail is never confidential, it’s accessed by 3rd parties every step of the way. This was sent to my gmail account which means Google even indexed it and is running contextual ads against it. Once confidential information has been shared with 3rd parties it’s no longer confidential, and American shared this with 3rd parties the moment they hit send. But also, this assumes they can enter into a contract with me without my agreeing to it. I’m not agreeing to any confidentiality here, yet they are telling me that by simply opening the e-mail from them we have an agreement. I wonder if I sent an e-mail to AmericanAirlines.wecaare001 @aa.com, or to their CEO, or their legal department that said “by reading this e-mail you agree that you now owe me $1,000,000″ would I get paid? Likely not, because you can’t opt someone else into an agreement, both parties have to agree. I don’t agree.

They totally don’t get it.

But not being one to just bitch and point out problems without offering solutions, here is some free advice and what they should have done…

Step one – They should make sure the people responding to their contact form actually read the comments and understand them before responding to them.

Step two – There should never be a situation where a phone rep, a supervisor for the platinum status line no less, yells at, insults, and hangs up on a customer. Ever.

Step three – They should ditch the stupid @Aairwaves twitter user name, and get something that makes sense like @AmericanAirlines or @AAmerican. Then the person manning that account should be empowered to actually engage customers, not just say “someone will be in touch.” Twitter is a personal and conversational medium, if you want to use it for your business you need to play by it’s rules. Sticking a puppet mouthpiece there isn’t winning you any points.

Step four – The customer service rep should have pulled up my account, seen what I had written in the initial note I sent, looked at the stuff I wrote on twitter, followed the links I posted to my account of the full details of the events, and once he/she had a firm grasp on the situation, they should have e-mailed me an apology and offered a solution. And they should have done that from an account that is tied to a single person who I could reply back to directly.

See, as a customer I can interact with and relate to a real person who has some empathy for my situation, boilerplate filled e-mails sent from bucket accounts that you can’t reply to sent by “customer service” representatives who haven’t bothered to do the least bit of legwork to understand why they are even e-mailing me does not cut it, and in fact just illustrates my complaint that they don’t care and I should take my business to another airline who does.

The happy ending to this is I’ve spoken to people at United AND Continental who said they will happily and immediately bump me to their comparable frequent flyer status level and will be delighted to have me. In closing, please enjoy this video of a cat hicupping and farting at the same time.

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6 Comments »

  1. I agree that the airline is totally handling this in a FUBAR manner.

    So funny to see that today, there’s an article on yahell about lack of customer service once more from the legacy carriers:

    http://travel.yahoo.com/p-interests-34489767 (Appropriate, no?)

    Comment by Heidi Reckel — June 4, 2010 @ 4:59 pm
  2. The email confidentiality boiler plate always cracks me up. I fought against its use at $WORK in an app we developed but got shot down by those higher up on the totem pole. Yay corporations!

    Comment by Kevin Spencer — June 4, 2010 @ 5:59 pm
  3. A friend just shared this in my Google Reader, and I had to comment because I went through the exact same process last year after AA changed a flight and never contacted me about it (which is against their own policy). I have over 500K miles with AA and have historically liked them, but in the past two years it seems like they’ve decided that slacking on customer service was the way to cut costs and beat the recession. I hope they shape up but if not then I’ll just have to find a new airline. And I agree, their “Twitter Channel name” is random and ridiculous.

    Comment by Emily — June 15, 2010 @ 2:04 pm
  4. They took out the confidentiality and now allow you to reply to their emails (I hope because I just sent in a response to their response and I did not see that clause). But I think we all agree that they need to improve their customer service so they do not need a customer relations line!

    Comment by Daniel — December 4, 2010 @ 12:45 am
  5. I have an even better on you’re gonna LOVE this!! I flew AA on 4/22/12 on my vacation/ honeymoon! Only for them to LOSE my luggage when I arrived in Punta Cana, filed a claim there and was told to check periodically as I did only to get the run arounds my whole vacation/honeymoon! They kept saying my bag was located in Miami and will be on the next FLIGHT. Well it never made it, when I arrived back at Wash reagan airport I also informed them got more contacts and proceeded the next day with my claims! To make a long story short I went through all the motions with E-mails paperwork etc etc, only to get alot of no-reply emails being sent back.LOL it reminds me of the commercial where the person ask to speak with a manger and they past the phone around the entire room only to give it back to the same person! how ironic,with that being said my clain was totaling somewhere around $900.00 for my clothes & money spent buying personal items while vacationing as they lost EVERYTHING!! only for them to settle sending me $522.98 never said anything about the seperate claim for personal items in which I sent the receipts and said that is their FINAL settlement because I didn’t provide them with receipts for the items over $100, once again there was no items in my list over $100 dollars except the luggage that was carrying it, if you subtract $150 from $900 it gives you $750, so we’re still a $150 short. At any cause I will present the receipt for the carryon bag when I get their A** in COURT and will never FLY Americn Airlines again, they’re very unprofessional & doesn’t DESERVE respectful peoples business (HONORABLE) people. I could only wish that Southwest Airlines did International flights because their staff and my overall experience is a pleasant one when I flew with them………..

    Comment by Weldon M Denson — July 24, 2012 @ 5:01 pm
  6. So you didn’t sue, you just wrote this article or what?

    Comment by Theodore Wallerstedt II — February 20, 2013 @ 8:51 am

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