|Power to the (front-line) people
Most experts on customer service agree that empowering the front-line people to effectively deal with most of the issues that arise with customers is a key to loyal customers. Providing the training and guidance to do that can be difficult, especially when these "front-line" people may be located thousands of miles from your company.
Mitch was reminded of the power of this simple truth again last year in dealing with United Airlines. He is a 1MM+ mile flyer with United (making him a permanent Premier Exec). This sometimes gives him perks, though not as good as a 1K or Global Services flyer. He was planning on going on vacation and had booked tickets for his wife and him. He had booked them many months before using award miles, so the trip cost $10 each. (His wife says there has to be some perks to him being gone all the time.)
Unfortunately their dog had been diagnosed with cancer and only had so much longer to live so they decided to cancel their vacation plans. (We are not sure if the couple they were traveling with found that a plus or a minus, but we digress). Mitch called United to cancel the flights and have the miles re-deposited into his account.
Shocked was he when the agent informed him that it would cost him $600 in cancellation fees to have his miles re-deposited. (Two travelers on two one-way tickets at $150 per ticket.) He asked the customer service person if he could just forgo the miles and not pay a fee because the policy was unbelievable and he would rather lose the miles (and then work to earn new ones on a "sane" airline) than pay $600 to keep his miles. She quickly offered to only charge him $300. He forcefully said no, that he would prefer to lose the miles than pay for them, even though he would be "pissed."
She said she had to charge him. He stated that he understood it was not her policy and she was just enforcing idiotic rules from others. He also asked if he could just not fly and lose his miles and be pissed. She asked if he was likely to make this same trip within the year (good suggestion), but not viable. She said she did not want him to be pissed and she would just re-deposit the miles into his account.
Shocked was he, but happy. He thanked her for helping him and returned to his earlier belief that United, like many airlines, has idiotic policies designed to piss off their best travelers, but at least they have some empowered front-line people who are willing and able to work around them.