Friday, February 26, 2010

What I really meant was

I work for United Airlines and I am a Key Account Manager. I have an assigned account base, worth about $90 million in annual revenue to United. I have two corporate accounts and I have seven travel agencies (some with mulitple branches) whom I see every two weeks, once a month or once every six weeks, depending on the size of the account and what works best for them. Oh, travel agencies are now called Travel Management Companies (TMCs), FYI. Now I can use that lingo later on in this post.

You with me?

On my calls (known as customer meetings or sales calls or account visits) to TMCs I either make a presentation to a group of agents about what the latest news is with United (#1 on-time in 2009, new routes, B777 conversion to new lie-flat Business Class seats, etc.) and how their account is performing on their expected sales targets or I walk around the TMC and talk to agents individually about their accounts, help with seat assignments, upgrade space, refund issues, pricing questions, etc. In some accounts I do both. I'm usually in an account anywhere from an hour to 4 hours a visit.

Still with me?

The agents are in their twenties, with just a couple of years experience up to an agent who is 93. Really. Most are wonderfully respectful and knowledgeable and kind and appreciative. Some are not the sharpest pencil in the box. Or they're one card short of a deck. Pick your cliche', I know them, I call on them. For those of you who are professional and polite, this is not about you. For those of you who aren't all that, well you won't read this anyway. = ]

Here are some things I wish I could say, but I never will. Except here.

To those cackling agents who think it's funny to say "Are you going to charge to go to the bathroom on the plane?", it might have been funny when I first heard it 10 years ago, but not so funny the zillionth time. No, that's not an exaggeration, I've made a tick mark for everytime I've heard that.

When I'm trying to answer your dumb questions about charging for blankets (that's the other guy) stop interrupting me and thinking it's hilarious when you yell out "but you don't clean your blankets" and when I assure you that not only do we clean them, but we then seal them in plastic to assure cleanliness, it's not a gigglefest when you say, "but you don't clean them, you just put them in plastic".

Don't ask me what the fare is. You're the travel agent.

Don't ask me how to get help on another airline because that rep won't answer your calls. I don't work for that airline. Don't sell them if they can't help you. You want my help? Sell United. I'll help you.

Please don't threaten me with selling another airline if I don't do what you unrealistically demand ("I'll just sell brand X if you won't give me a free upgrade on this $150 fare to New York") because I will call your bluff. Or dial the phone for you. I don't care if the other guy gives it away, I don't.

I know we outsource, I know your feelings about it, I've been hearing it for years, so why do you act like no one's ever told me? And our sales support agents aren't in India, they're in the Philippines. Yes, they both have accents, no they are not the same. I use the same folks for my support, so don't tell me they can't speak or understand English. They understand me fine. And we record their calls, so if you tell me a story about how terrible they are, I will ask you for the details of the call and advise you we will listen to it so we can instruct the agent how to better handle a call. What? Never mind, you say...??

If I tell you a flight is full in First Class and that I can't clear an upgrade, I'm telling you the truth. Saying "but I never ask for anything" or "but this is a really important client to me" doesn't make someone suddenly disappear off the plane to give your passenger the seat. Really. I tried, I told you the truth.

I was called a "vendor" this week. I wasn't referred to by name but by "vendor". As in "oh, there's a vendor out in the lobby". It kind of took the wind out of my sails that this office I'd been visiting for almost two years, for whom I've done a lot of work and made exceptions and waivers and answered emails at 11:00 p.m. and on weekends... I'm just a vendor and nothing I do makes a difference.

But it does to many. "You rock" and "thank you" and "I appreciate it" and "wow! that's great!" are heard more often than the other and that makes me keeping coming back for more. I have made great friends and have so much respect for many in this industry that I shouldn't let the dim bulbs and poor business people get me down.

What I really meant was "Thanks for your support of United."

1 comment:

  1. Good writing! and I hope it was cathartic to 'get it out'! I do feel your pain. Keep up the good work! Disregard those nattering nabobs of on into excellence.