Cranky on the Web (August 12 – 16)

American, Mergers/Finance, US Airways

In the Trenches: Choosing Our Tone With Unhappy CustomersIntuit Small Business Blog
Every business has unhappy customers from time to time, but sometimes it doesn’t make any sense. With those, I have a hard time finding the right tone.

Airlines fight back on DOJ challenge to mergerThe Cycle on MSNBC
Krystal Ball on The Cycle brought up in the discussion about the merger. See the clip at the link – the Cranky mention starts at 3m18s.

GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brett Snyder (The Cranky Flier)
Vishal did a little interview with me as part of his GlobeTrotters series.

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11 comments on “Cranky on the Web (August 12 – 16)

  1. Watched the segment on the merger. When I saw them bring up the 1,000 flights that were deemed illegal concentration, with a little digging, it brought up hundreds of suspect examples like Des Moines to Tallahassee which has two passengers each day and Delta controls 70%. How could a merger represent a problem in markets like this? Somebody was trying to manufacture a big scary number, but came up with many ludicrous examples.

    Some of the examples they gave about the hassles of travel have nothing to do with airlines. The example of taking off her child’s shoes is TSA.

    Overall, it seems like competition is increasing as Frontier, Virgin, and Spirit in particular jump into any routes they see as being high fare and exploitable.

    1. Axel – No, not at all. It’s very rare that someone is unhappy and extremely rare that someone asks for a refund. So this isn’t a huge issue in that sense, but if someone is unhappy, it’s very important for us to deal with the situation the right way. Unhappy people tell their experiences far more often than happy people. And that’s why we never argue with someone who wants a refund (though this particular person still hasn’t responded on how they would like the refund sent). But my natural instinct is always to defend the company. I ended up restraining myself in this case, because I decided it wouldn’t do any good.

      1. I didn’t think so–the story seems odd, but understanding the mind of the dissatisfied customer is no easy task; probing and trying to find out what the problem is, though, often aggravates them worse.

  2. Unhappy Customers:

    Those people did what the big box retailers are complaining about. People go into Best Buy and ask a million questions about a product and get all their answers, then go online to amazon to purchase the item.

    These people used you to make their life simple and once they had all the answers, took advantage of your refund policy.

    At least you said it doesn’t happen a lot, so you may not have to rethink your policy.

    1. David – I have rethought the policy before, but ultimately since it happens so little, we get greater benefit from keeping it. But yeah, I’ll keep revisiting from time to time if things change.

      I can tell you that we had one person who took advantage of it last year come to us again this year. I laid it out for him fully – explaining that he wasn’t getting his money back this time around. He agreed, interestingly enough.

    2. Brett, I just think you have to suck it up. People will take advantage of the policy. I always point to Nordstrom and Costco who have the most liberal return policies in the retail industry. The Costco return policy on TVs was so generous, people were coming in with their old TVs (bought at Costco) and saying they wanted to take advantage of the “TV Upgrade Program”. I have actually seen people returning obviously old, beat up furniture. This was because they had used furniture purchased at Costco for a few years and din’t want to pay to move it, and wanted new furniture. They got their refund.

      All of this abuse is a small minority of your customer base. The real customers, get a sense of confidence from your guarantee. I know if I buy a widget form Costco or Nordstrom, I can have complete confidence in the item, so my tendency is to remain loyal to those institutions and buy from them. I rarely return anything and even so, I DO NOT shop at retailers with known BAD return policies (Fry’s Electronics, Wal Mart).
      Even though your business is significantly different than retail, in terms of repeat customers, it relies on word of mouth. If people are confident in the product / service, they will use it again and, more importantly, recommend it.

  3. I think the DOJ’s interest comes down to the slots at National and the fact that this is the first merger that will affect Congress more directly than the others.

    I think the 85% stat is a bit overplayed because most countries have substantial coverage by fewer than 4 airlines. We have large swaths of the USA that can only support one airline.

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