Doing It Right: Faryl Robin

Faryl RobinThe most gorgeous pair of shoes in my closet are this pair by Faryl Robin. Equally amazing is the story of how I got them. It was my first experience with excellent customer service on Twitter.

The year was 2008. My daughter found the shoes on the Anthropologie website. They were marked down, priced to sell, so I immediately ordered a pair. Sadly, the site was out of her size, 11.

On a whim I did a search and discovered that Faryl Morse herself, CEO and creative director at Faryl Robin was on Twitter. So I took a chance and sent her a tweet. To my great surprise she responded that I should message her assistant so that they could track down the shoes for my daughter. To make a long story short, they found a pair of 11s, and they’re now in my daughter’s closet.

I never wear my Faryl Robins but that I recall this story and the kindness and attentiveness of Faryl and her staff. The fondness I feel spills over to the entire brand. This is what is known as #DoingItRight

Why I’m Done with United Airlines

Joe and JamesIt was a year ago last month that my nephew suffered the first of many headaches, which, after much persistence from my brother, landed James in St. Louis Children’s Hospital after the discovery of a large tumor in his cervical spine, later determined to be an aggressive anaplastic astrocytoma, which subsequently spread to his brain.

Over the past year I’ve made multiple trips back to the Midwest, always flying in and out of St. Louis, a short train ride to the hospital, so last month, when I made travel plans, there was no indication I shouldn’t do the same.

A few days after I arrived we were devastated to learn that, after leaving no stone unturned, there was nothing more the doctors could do for James. Despite every effort, the aggressive cancer would inevitably prevail. Knowing that there hadn’t been a single “positive outcome” using the cancer drug the oncologists recommended, James’ parents chose to bring their son home where he could be surrounded by love, familiar settings and, freed from the hospital’s impediments, a much more conducive environment for the sword fights that our little pirate loves.

Once the decision was made, the teams of doctors wasted little time in removing excess tubes, streamlining James’ care so that his family could better care for him at home. His parents were consulted on a Tuesday; by Friday the patient was home.

So what does this have to do with United Airlines? My return to Portland included two flights: St. Louis to Chicago followed by Chicago to Portland. It would be a lot easier for my brother to get me to Chicago, so I needed permission to ditch my first flight and just pick up the second one. I rationalized that United would be able to re-sell my first flight, so this seemed like a winning scenario for everyone involved.

I emailed United Airlines that Friday, hardly expecting a prompt response on account of the huge snow storm blanketing the northeast., but it was worth a shot. Saturday, desperate to expedite closure on the issue, I called.

After holding for thirty-eight minutes I was eventually informed that if I skipped the first flight, my reservation on the second flight would be cancelled. The only way to bail on the first flight was to pay $515.70, which included a “change fee” and the “difference in the costs of the flights. Here’s the irony: the flight that they were offering to re-book me on out of Chicago was the very same flight I was already booked on.

This “solution,” by the way, was all they could offer, even with the knowledge of the extraordinary circumstances surrounding my request. Unbelievable!

Incredulous, I turned to Twitter. And I receive this very “pat” response from @United:

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10:48 a.m. @United’s “FM” called to tell me that the Chicago to PDX flight is “more expensive” than the flights I’ve already purchased, but she’d be happy to “waive the additional cost” and I can just pay the $150 “transfer fee,” you know, because of the circumstances. When I pointed out that I was already booked on the flight she was attempting to re-sell me, she agreed that I was.

My Twitter community, growing by the minute, followed the status of my situation, asking questions and offering support. Scott Stratton, “kind of a big deal” on Twitter with 143,360 followers, jumped in with support.

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So what do we learn from this? What could have been an incredibly opportunity for United Airlines turned into a PR nightmare as more and more people heard of the story. They failed to provide exceptional customer service, to protect their brand reputation and to build their community. Most important, they had an opportunity to excel and both customer service reps failed miserably.

Here’s what they should have done: The first person I spoke with should have said, “I’m so sorry,” explained that he’d need to re-book my flight, and then taken care of it.

My guess is that since this didn’t happen, the customer service representatives weren’t totally to blame. They probably weren’t empowered by the airline to do that. And that’s a shame.

My brother had a whole lot of things on his mind; this was an opportunity for United to take one thing off his shoulders. Instead, they chose to add to his burden.

Do you think anyone in our family will ever forget this? Do you think any of us will ever fly United again if there are any other options? Do you think, whenever United Airlines is mentioned in conversation, we’ll ever not tell this story?

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Doing It Right: Breaking Pointe

My pilates instructor, Kelly Recktenwald, is passionate about all things dance. So last week when I happened to catch the new show Breaking Pointe she was the first person I thought of, so I tweeted her. But, of course, by the time she saw the tweet the episode had finished.

Last night I happened to come across what turned out to be the second half of the second episode, so I tweeted her again. She was in allergy hell and missed the my message.

Aside: It just seems wrong to call or text to let a person know that a trivial reality show is on T.V. Ya know what I mean? I don’t know why, but tweeting seems a little less intrusive.

Anyway, imagine my surprise when I noticed this tweet from Allison DeBona:

How had she noticed my tweet, you ask? I had used the hashtag #BreakingPointe a hashtag she most likely regularly searches to find individuals conversing about her show. Notice she utilized the hashtag in her response as well.

Great job listening, Alli. I’ll be watching Thursday.

Think Outside the Can

Chicken Apple Sausage Hash with Pancetta, Asparagus and Baked Eggs (photo courtesy of

I admit it: where video blogging is concerned I’m a scaredy-cat. It’s not that I don’t think it’s a great medium; I just don’t think it’s the best medium for me.

But that doesn’t mean I don’t get to have a little fun with video, because a couple of my clients were destined to be seen on the silver screen…well, on your computer screen anyway. Clark Haass is a great example. He took to video like eggs to hash. I am so proud of the way he chose to share his passion for foodie adventures he refers to as Hashcapades.

Think Outside the Can – – YouTube.

If you’re not hungry after watching that, there’s something clearly wrong with you.

Doing it Wrong: Beaverton Toyota

Form letters are fine and dandy. No one knows understands the beauty of systems and automation better than I do.

But, more often than not, form letters need to be reviewed and customized before they are transmitted.

Case in point: the email I received from Beaverton Toyota. Continue reading

Doing it Right: Comcast Technician Eric Tucker

One of the reasons I’ve been such a slacker blogger over the past several months is that my computer has been slow. I’m talking walk through mud with snow shoes slow. Most sites were so slow to load that I’d click the link and then start some paperwork before returning back to see if it had loaded. Some sites, like WordPress, would only load occasionally.

As you can imagine, this turtle-like behavior was the cause of much frustration and many interactions between me and my internet cable provider, Comcast. All of them were futile until this past week when @ComcastWill offered to have a technician sent to my house to see about exchanging my modem. Thrilled, I accepted. Continue reading

Doing it Right: Dr. Craig Johnson

It’s shocking. I know. Following my first root canal in January I told everyone I knew that I’d happily return for another one the following day if I had to. It’s not that a root canal is a walk in the park but Dr. Craig Johnson and his staff have perfected the experience down to an art form. I call it doing it right.

Here are just a few of the things they’re doing right:

He’s an expert. Having never met Dr. Johnson or had a root canal I was comforted by the fact that the procedure is one of Dr. Johnson’s specialties. Read expert.

They understand the importance of establishing trust. When I first called to schedule my January 3rd appointment way back last October, the topic of dental insurance came up. I provided Rochelle with my dental insurance information, set the appointment and congratulated myself on my bravery. {Yes, I’m a wimp.} Continue reading

Cirque du Soleil: Beatles LOVE Show

Despite the similarity in their nomenclature, the circus and Cirque du Soleil have little in common. The former has costuming, props and acrobatics, and there may be that singular moment when adults are truly awed, but we all know when it’s coming. The latter transports you to a state of continuous awe and the emotions raised are profound. Continue reading