Last week, I was in an airline fiasco that left me F.O. (friendship over) with AirPhil Express. I wrote a formal complaint letter to their customer service  peeps and waited for a response.

When I did finally get a response, after a week, the reply was incomplete and not very well thought of. I thought my concerns have gone to the dogs and it’ll just be another complaint sweeped under the rug til I get tired of talking about it.

But yesterday, things turned for the better and I was caught off guard in a situation that not very many large companies would find themselves in.

Unbeknownst to many, before the big AirPhil Express incident, I was already in talks with them on a business collaboration. And when I met with them last Tuesday, I completely forgot to mention that something had happened to be last week. I wanted to be transparent and made sure that on the next meeting I would inform them of the situation and my blog post.

So yesterday, I was meeting with AirPhil, to finalize some details on the deal we were working on. I mentioned that I had an “incident” with them last week, and I said it a bit sheepishly so it wouldn’t sound like a big deal. But then I got this response: Oh yeah, That’s why we’re meeting — to talk about that.

I was floored. I just got ambushed! I thought I was going to be warned or get legal-blabber about my blog, my tweets, my incident. Since I’m familiar with big corporations and their “BIG GUY” way of handling business, I thought I was going to be bullied into deleting their substandard email response on ToT, which actually had a confidentiality clause at the bottom (which I ignored for the sake of my readers’ knowledge).

When the surprise ambush happened, the AVP of their Social Media department arrived and I was in for the unexpected. Instead of the hostile, awkward, face-to-face, confrontation I was musting up the courage for, we had a very open-minded, transparent and surprisingly friendly conversation about it. They made no excuses for what I experienced, and they sincerely listened to my side and understood why I had to voice out what had happened. They apologized for what I had to go through, the manner everything was handled, and the feeling of disregard generated by the lack of communication and leadership. But most important of all, they were THERE, in front of me, speaking directly to me and not behind an email address or a hiding supervisor (gentle stab).

How many corporations do you know would go out of their way to “find” someone who had made a complaint? How many big business would ambush a business meeting to apologize for their shortcomings, instead of trying to downplay the situation? How many recipients of complaints would thank the complainant (me) for such a lengthy and detailed letter? I don’t know of very many, but now I know one.

I have to disclose, just for transparency,¬† that they gave me a round trip domestic ticket to compensate for the hassle, but I didn’t really care about that. My travels are paid by corporate so that wasn’t the issue. What mattered to me was that they were there, right in front of me, and they listened. They know that as a young company, they have a lot to learn and improve on, but the very gesture of their stealth meeting made me feel validated and made me hopeful about AirPhil Express again.

They actually thanked me for writing such a detailed complaint, because they can use it to get down to the source of the problem, and it made their investigation more accurate. Come ON. How many of disgruntled customers got a THANK YOU as a response when you would bitch and whine about something?

People are very simple to please. Most of us just yearn to be heard (hence blogging/tweet/social media), understood and made to feel respected. It’s so hard to get that when businesses are stuck in the corporate chain of protocol where the rank and file don’t normally get aligned with the goals of the executives. AirPhil Express’ straight to the source, hands-on approach, albeit surprising, was one of the best WINS they could do for such a catastrophic fail, bad customer service.

So now, I’m actually glad this whole thing is over. And what’s better is how the ending happened. They say it’s not about how you fall down, but how you get up that matters. AirPhil Express totally got back from that stumble.

And, to be totally honest, it made me feel special that they had to scour the globe (ok, maybe not really the globe, but they hunted me down!) to speak to me in person and touch base with the situation. Sometimes, no matter how good your write, words are not enough. Presence, no matter how minute, speaks volumes.

So kudos to AirPhil Express for such a fresh approach at responding to a complaint letter. I hope many companies make that much effort to turn around a bad experience.

On the flip side, I’m happy we are now friends again, and I can complete my Fly 10 Get 1 promo! I have 6 already! hahahaha.