United’s Robots Care

With scandals grounding the commercial airline industry, United Airlines has landed firmly in the fray.

In October, Chris Chmura, a reporter for WTVT-TV in Florida, tweeted a screenshot of an email he supposedly received from the United Airlines customer service team.

According to PRNewser, Chmura was served warm drinks and overpriced peanuts (which are usually free) on his flight. Among other issues, Chmura was underwhelmed with the service provided on his flight and sent an email to the United Airlines Customer Care.

@Chris_Chmura

@Chris_Chmura

United Airlines Customer Care called Chmura “Mr. Human” three times in the brief email, raising concerns that Customer Care is actually run by a robot.

Customer Care is a department one usually expects to be handled by humans, since it requires special attention and may involve sensitive issues.

Some media outlets took this opportunity to joke about the situation, such as Consumerist, whose sarcastic tweets ended up garnering some condescending responses from other major airlines.

@AmericanAir

@AmericanAir

jetblue

@JetBlue

JetBlue made a point of emphasizing how personal issues should be handled by people, not robots.

In the wake of a financial struggle, United Airlines has been making cuts to staff, apparently including their PR department. Although it’s understandable that companies must make painful choices in a crisis, was reducing PR department United’s smartest move? It would seem the prime time to rely on help from their PR professionals.

Should United Airlines use a robotic Customer Care system or is it blown out of proportion? Will this approach harm the airline in the long run?

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