United’s Apology Mad Libs

Via Reddit (and my Facebook feed), here’s an apology letter received by a customer this month.

Companies clearly have customer service template letters. Frequently it seems as though the wrong one is selected to use when replying to comments, when the response doesn’t seem to answer the concerns that were raised.

But usually the employee at least fills in the blanks, instead of leaving it to us to do for them:

(Click to enlarge)

Isn’t it comforting to know that your comments regarding (specific item) are taken so seriously that they’ll be incorporated into United’s training going forward?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. They need to take a page from Spirit or Ryan Air and set customer expectations accordingly, which would be so much better than this where you eventually realize based upon extremely poor delivery that customer service is just not a priority for United.

  2. Well, to be fair, United has to respond to a lot of letters and it’s helpful to have templates. Can you imagine the various kinds letters employees would send out if they were given NO guidance? The fact that the letter is a template doesn’t mean United won’t do what they say – use it for coaching and training. Whether they will or won’t is independent of a name put on a letter.

  3. Ooh, ooh, I’ll play:

    1) [the tacks on your middle, last-row-of-coach seat]

    2) [a Jeff Smisek bobble-head doll]

    3) [Suzanne Rubin]

  4. There’s an interesting comment on the Reddit thread: “Not all airlines overbook. For example, Virgin America does not overbook (likely one of many reasons they’re so unprofitable).”

    Is this true? Why does Virgin not overbook if it profitable to do so, and do you think that policy will change after the IPO?

  5. UA CS has declined since the merger. UA use to care that CS expectations were not met before the merger, they had a whole dept to focused on addressing customer complaints now they really do not give a hoot how customers are treated. UA was a premium airline even up to the merger now is more akin to Ryan Air but with higher prices.

  6. It took them a month but they did reply asking for a promised no-fee award ticket change and granted my request which I was expecting to have denied since I’d only gotten one res agent to agree to it on speculation if a better flight became available.

    That it took a month didn’t really matter because I got what I wanted.

    The accompanying Air Canada locator number was off by one digit, but AC found my res and is helping me with my seats now.

    So I’m good with UA now. I doubt I’ll fly for any of their miles but as long as they don’t devalue their Opinion Miles program I earn a free overseas ticket each year doing polls like I once did puzzles.

  7. Did the pax receive the (Specific Item)? If not, time to complain and get another form letter. 🙂

  8. While Delta is the most evil of the US airlines I find United to be the most naive.

  9. I don’t know why this is so surprising. Templates are pretty much standard for any company of significant size that interacts frequently with the general public. The CS departments are structured like a call center (or might even be handled by them) – i.e. you have a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd level. The majority of the volume is handled by the first and second level employees who are probably not well-paid (they might even be outsourcers in a country like India or the Philippines). Templates are used to ensure that front line employees stick to the facts and don’t say something that will potentially get the company into further trouble. Typically the template language has been legally reviewed. Of course they will also have a fair amount of kumbaya to reassure the customer (and prevent further anger/escalation). Only the most serious, unique, or high-profile cases will reach the 3rd level, where you will likely get a more personalized reply.

  10. @Andrew @Erik

    Seems like you guys did not actually read the form letter that you are talking about. Or even the full post about it. Hint: nothing to do with the use of form letter, but with how it was (not) used.

  11. Nah, I got the joke. United sent out their template to someone and we now know FOR SURE that they write form letters with generic references to sympathy and self-improvement. Haha. In a world of automation, it happens. Even to bloggers, as TBB pointed out recently: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:AKZgFZ4569oJ:millionmilesecrets.com/2014/07/29/southwest-sale-fares-as-low-as-49-template-5/%3Futm_source%3Dfeedblitz%26utm_medium%3DFeedBlitzRss%26utm_campaign%3Dmillionmilesecrets+&cd=1&hl=en&ct=clnk

  12. Like I said, there are machines doing everyone’s job now and flying in first class. A machine flies in first class, not a human.

    A machine jacked the Conrad free nights from 30K to 80K. A machine will be hiring non-Asians to work at P.F. Changs, and then never hire 1 Asian to work in that Chinese restaurant chain.

    A machine is in control of Wall Street. A machine receives a salary now. A machine claims they are protected by US Statutes…..again, a machine claims they are protected by US statutes (even though not one protects a machine).

    ObamaWorld is lawless.


  13. I’ve received this same letter … with the blanks filled in, of course. Really makes me feel cared for!

  14. A real disservice to competence to not list the customer care manager’s name……….

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