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Customer Service Fail: United’s Apology Letter

Since merging with Continental in 2010, United has been beset by systems glitches, operational stumbles, and financial underperformance, routinely failing to meet the expectations of its customers, its shareholders, and its own employees. (United’s own pilots recently challenged the company’s CEO to “lead or get out of the way.”)

The company’s haplessness was on display yet again this week, when a response letter from United’s Customer Care unit to a passenger’s complaint went viral on Reddit.

United’s letter, in its entirety:

Dear Mrs. ——–

Thank you for letting us know about your recent experience with United Airlines. I apologize if our service did not meet your expectation, and appreciate you taking time to share your concerns.

Our goal is to provide a consistently reliable product and an exemplary level of customer service. Based on the events you describe, we did not meet this goal. Your comments regarding (SPECIFIC EVENT) will be used for coaching and training our employees.

To encourage you to fly with us again and as a tangible means of acknowledging your disappointment, enclosed if (SPECIFIC ITEM).

(CUSTOMER NAME), I ask that you allow us another opportunity to serve you, as we consider it our privilege to have you aboard.


Customer Care Manager

Fill-in-the-blanks apology letters are a staple of corporate customer relations. Still, it’s creepy to see the bare bones of what might have been perceived as a genuine apology laid out quite so starkly.

What’s really damning, though, is the carelessness of United’s, ahem, Customer Care operation in sending the letter out in its boilerplate state. It feeds directly into the narrative that United is a company that has lost its bearings, that it’s neither caring nor competent.

As United is learning the hard way, a care-less apology is worse than no apology at all. In this case, the company’s customer care team would have done better to carry carelessness to its ultimate conclusion and forget to mail the letter altogether.

Reader Reality Check

Customer care, anyone?

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