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Supporting the Network

For Customer Service Representative Mary Brown, keeping travelers happy and technology healthy are all in a day’s work

Author MARIE REINKE

GO-TO PERSON. Troubleshooter. Creative thinker. All these words come to mind when Customer Service Representative Mary Brown steps into the lobby of Terminal 1 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport. She patrols the aisle, gliding smoothly among customers and stopping frequently to answer questions and point people in the right direction. Her eyes never stop scanning rows of check-in kiosks as she looks to make sure that the tiny green lights next to the card readers are glowing and the machines are functioning as they should be.

“I’ve learned to think like the machines,” she says with an empathy that extends beyond customers to the kiosks themselves. “It upsets me when I see an EasyCheck-in kiosk closed. It’s a pet peeve of mine, so I get to work to fix them. We want to keep customers moving.”

Brown has served as a “kiosk champion” for every release of software upgrades to United’s EasyCheck-in kiosks since they rolled out at O’Hare more than a decade ago. In that time, functionality has expanded greatly. Beyond simply printing boarding passes, customers can now make seat selections, purchase and check the status of upgrades, choose Economy Plus seating, and much more. In addition, customers of both Continental and United may now check in on the same machines.

During each beta test after a software upgrade, Brown stands in the lobby near the machines to observe customers using them. When an issue arises, she helps the customer with his or her issue, then reports back to the IT team about what’s functioning and what isn’t.

“She is so passionate and definitely goes above and beyond,” says her manager, Jeanne Nelli. “Everybody knows Mary Brown. They know they can count on her. She comes in early, sometimes at 2 a.m., to make sure the machines are working and coming online all right.”

Brown also works with every Chicago class of United’s newly hired customer service representatives to acquaint them with the kiosk functions and show them basic troubleshooting tips.

“I love helping people,” she says, “whether it’s co-workers or customers.”

She recently met a woman at the airport who was carrying a baby and had just come off an 18-hour flight. The customer was trying to connect to a flight that had just been canceled. When Brown saw that she was crying, she walked over and gave the customer a hug. Then Brown put on her problem-solving hat to get the woman a hotel room and, more immediately, a wheelchair so that she could sit down and take a break for a minute from the stress of traveling with a tiny child.

When Brown isn’t serving as a sentinel over the kiosks in the lobby, you will find her at a gate or in the Global Services lounge taking care of United’s premium customers.

“It’s amazing what a smile can do,” she says. “And I always thank every one of our customers for their business. It only takes a minute!”

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