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You’re Doing It Right – vol. 2

Back in April, I posted volume 1 of this series – which I hope will be an ongoing one.  While there have been some folks I could (and should!) definitely add to this list since then, I have to admit that I’ve been a bit lax on my end.  Until today, that is.

Yesterday, a 3 day experience in customer service ended up in such a positive way that I have to admit I’m a little stunned.

Let me rewind just a bit to explain.

The Backstory

I’ve been a pretty devoted fan of Frontier Airlines for a long time now.  A decade (and more) ago, it was our airline of choice prior to becoming parents because of their customer service.  The “little guy” airline with Denver as its main hub was competing with behemoths like United Airlines after rising like a phoenix from the ashes from an earlier incarnation.  They made it on low-prices and sheer hustle.

If you grew up in Denver like my husband & I did – you knew you were in United country – but you also knew the name Frontier.  The only airline to hire one of the Tuskegee Airmen as a commercial pilot.  The first commercial airline to hire a female pilot.  It was a name, that despite bankruptcy inspired trust.

Then along came our daughter.  Suddenly those televisions in the back of the headrests at every seat on the plane that offered LiveTV – an inflight satellite TV service?  They became gold.  We didn’t have to bring entertainment along on the flights for our kidlet, just swipe a credit card and she could watch Disney Channel, Cartoon Network… you name it.  And still, the customer service & can-do attitude made us check Frontier before any other airline – and choose them whenever we could.

Their clever animals-on-the-tail-of-every-plane marketing causes our daughter to ask “what animal is on the plane?” every time we fly.  Apparently the case for many parents who fly frequently out of DIA as the “A Whole Different Animal” campaign has been overwhelmingly successful for 7 years now.

What Does Loyalty Program Really Mean?

So it should be no surprise if you’ve read this far to find out that Frontier’s frequent flier program EarlyReturns® was the first one I actually had an active account with.

Over the years, they’ve consistently had better terms than any other carrier when I compared them – plus since they were our ‘go to airline’ we tended to get more miles on them than any other.

When Midwest Airlines bought out Frontier last year and decided to merge the two under the Frontier name, I knew there’d be some changes (and there were) but they stayed our “check it first” airline.

The Catalyst

I know I should’ve had my ducks in a row earlier.  Heck, if I’d booked my tickets before June 17th, like I should’ve – I would’ve had enough miles to redeem for a round-trip flight to NYC next month for BlogHer.  But best laid plans.  Turns out I needed about 2,000 more.

Yes, I blame myself on that one.

That’s why I didn’t have a problem when their site said I needed 2,000 more miles and that if I wanted to purchase them? It would cost me $50 when I was trying to book the flights.  So I re-read all of the FAQs and terms.  Winced because I had missed the date – but sucked it up and bought the miles because $50 wasn’t too bad of a penalty and the only blackout dates I could find were around Christmas & New Years.  Besides, I was booking the flight through their system – so when it said “you don’t have enough miles for that – would you like to purchase more?”  I pulled out the Visa and clicked yes.

Imagine my surprise when I had enough miles – but now the system told me that the itinerary I had just bought the extra miles for was not available.  Not only that, but there were NO flights that were available for those dates.  Unless I wanted to pay for them instead of using my miles.

I checked arrival the day before – nope.  I checked departure the day after – nope.  I started swearing at my computer.

Why?! Why couldn’t the system have told me that those dates were ineligible before I spent $50 to buy those extra miles?  I felt tricked.  Duped.  Annoyed that somehow I would end up having to pay the penalty I had agreed to and still end up having to pay for a ticket!

Now, in the big picture, fifty dollars isn’t a huge amount of money when it comes to airfare.  It’s often the difference between one departure time and another fare-wise.  I’ve paid more than $50 in the past to take a flight on Frontier when a competitor’s fare was less simply because I knew I’d have a better flight experience.

What Next?

Well I didn’t book the ticket.  In fact, I started comparison shopping.  Determined that if a competitor was running a similar flight for the same amount? I’d book that instead.  Yeah, one customer booking a different carrier… who cares, right?

Apparently, Frontier Airlines cares.

I know because I twittered my frustration“Dear @flyfrontier – the time to tell me I can’t get tickets for the flights I need is *before* I purchase more miles, not after. #annoyed”

I didn’t really expect a response.  At best, I expected maybe a token response of  ‘so sorry – we’ll pass along your feedback.’

Using the Tools for Action

I guess I should’ve read @flyfrontier‘s twitterstream a little more carefully.  Or maybe I should’ve trusted that the company that I had known for great customer service for so many years would live up to their reputation.

But I guess I’m a little too used to companies that “listen” using social media tools – but don’t really act on what they hear unless it’s a ‘high profile incident.’ (note: I alone am never a ‘high profile incident’ – although I have occasionally been part of some group that is.)

I didn’t count on folks who would go above and beyond over the course of the next 3 days to “fix” my problem.  Through a series of tweets and DMs – I was given the choice of either having the miles purchase refunded or having an itinerary that was one of my alternates booked for me with my miles.  I opted for the latter.

One quick phone call to pay the fees I would’ve had to pay later and to confirm & ticket the itinerary? And I’m one happy camper.

The Extraordinary Bit

Thing is? I know I’m not getting ‘special’ treatment here.  How do I know?  Because I’ve been watching the tweetstream for @flyfrontier for the past few days.  And they are really listening (not just to people @’ing that account – also listening for MidWest Airlines and Frontier and variants) and are trying to remedy things.

Yes – there are big companies that pioneered this technique.

But I have to say, it’s nice to see ‘one of the little guys’ putting it into practice effectively. 

It’s even nicer to know that their “Customer Loyalty Program” isn’t just about having loyal customers – it’s about being loyal to their customers as well.

So Colette at Frontier Airlines and @flyfrontier? Thanks. You’re doing it right.

E arlyReturns®


Posted in Marketing, You're Doing It Right.

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  • Lee Williams

    It IS refreshing to hear that a company (and a local favorite, at that) not only HAS the same tools as everyone else (Twitter, FB, etc.) but actually USES them, rather than simply rattling off its litany of modern gadgetry as most do. Quite excellent!

  • Lee Williams

    It IS refreshing to hear that a company (and a local favorite, at that) not only HAS the same tools as everyone else (Twitter, FB, etc.) but actually USES them, rather than simply rattling off its litany of modern gadgetry as most do. Quite excellent!