United Customer Solutions Team unknowns

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Out of the 10 substantial changes that United announced to improve customer experience, I’m most intrigued by the establishment of a ‘Customer Solutions Team, to provide agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportations to get customers to their final destination’.  The CST can be a very welcome addition to United airport operations and hopefully it can streamline the proper resolution of some traveler ordeals.  

I recently wrote about my recent trip to Singapore Beijing and the several delays and re-bookings I had to go through.  I certainly empathize with customer service agents that have to deal with the wrath of customers, in particular those who work at the airport.  On the other hand, I also empathize with travelers who have to deal with customer service counter employees who and gate agents who often just don’t care and are indifferent to the frustrations that we feel as passengers.  For these, among other reasons, the CST can be a hit.  Think about it… in essence this team’s job is to resolve the customer’s issues, not get a flight out on time.

However, little has been said about this new team.  This is what ATW Online reported:

United will establish a customer solutions team to provide agents with creative solutions.

United will create a team to proactively identify and provide gate agents with creative solutions such as using nearby airports, other airlines or ground transportation to get customers and crews to their final destinations. Separately, the team also will work to provide solutions to help get crews to their final destinations. United expects the team to be operational by June. Examples include: a) suggest flights to close-by airports and then provide transportation to the customer’s preferred destination; b) If a customer’s travel includes a connecting flight, provide options that would eliminate the connection and still get the customer to the destination; c) offer ground transportation where practical.

I haven’t been able to find any additional info about the concrete operations of the CST, so I wonder:

  • Are they operating physically out of the airport? This could make sense since their main task will be gate agent support.  But, it’d seem a bit of a stretch that there could be CST reps out of every airport.
  • Will some gate agents then become CST?
  • If this is going to be a remote operation, what is United doing to ensure responsiveness from the team, be it via phone/tweet/online form/etc.  Most of these cases will indeed require a quick turnaround and resolution.
  • Do gate agents refer customers to CST or can customers reach CST directly bypassing airport personnel?
  • Is this strictly a gate agent support team that customers have no access to?

I created a thread out in FlyerTalk and hopefully it gains some traction if any members of the community there have additional details.  I’ve also reached out to United and some friends that work as gate agents and will update this post if I receive any additional details. I’m sure there are a lot of other questions flying around about this and other United initiatives, so feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Give me your thoughts