Everywhere you look, especially every social platform on the internet ,
you see something about United Airlines latest public relations fiasco.
I have no desire to jump on that bandwagon here- like everyone else, I had
enough fun with it on my personal page. What I do want to talk about is
their customer service mindset.
Got a few thoughts, based on what normal everyday business people
do when their business has a problem.
I would Love for United Airlines CEO to adopt the concepts, though they may seem
too radical for him to grasp, although, I am not really writing this for the airline,
as I do not believe that they give one fig of shit what I, or any other small business person thinks.
I am writing it as advice for small business owners who want their business to grow,
their customers to love them and remain loyal to them, and to be able to sleep at night
without nightmares of screaming humans being dragged down airplane aisles
gestapo style, like something out of a bad Hollywood movie.
I’ve heard several different versions of what happened. Some said the airline
over booked, others said they simply had 4 employees that needed the seats
so they could fly to the destination city in order to be available to work their next shifts.
I know there are also airline stipulations (as well as some legal regulations) stating
that the airline can remove passengers anytime for any reason and there is nothing
the passenger can do about it… blah blah blah.
Regardless of the reasons for needing the seats or what their regulations ALLOW,
the bottom line is this:
If United had a 21st century Customer Centric culture and mindset, NONE of these
incidences-along with the messes in the past (can you hum a few bars of “We Busted
A Customer’s Guitar & Didn’t Seem To Care?”) – would or could have happened.
But even if a company doesn’t have a customer centric mindset, at least they should
have some damned common human decency.
So I’m just gonna make it short and sweet…because common sense and decency
is NOT exactly rocket science.
1. STOP over booking, and if you must- and ONLY if you must- then by golly you
treat those inconvenienced customers like GOLD. The fault is NOT theirs. The
book and PAY in good faith. The FAULT (did you notice that word FAULT) is
yours … accept it and grovel in good faith. It is NEVER a customers
responsibility to to fix a company’s mistakes.
2. Just because you CAN do something, does NOT mean you should. (learned
that when I was 7)
3. STOP exercising your “right” to physically abuse or arrest people that are NOT
terrorist suspects. That is why you have the ability to do that. NOT because
some customers or people are rude or loud or obnoxious, or do not do what you want especially while the damned plane is still on the ground, at the terminal, still loading, the door is still open, and you KNOW is going nowhere because
You DO NOT REMOVE CUSTOMERS AGAINST THEIR WILL
UNLESS THEY ARE TRULY A DANGER TO THE FLIGHT AND TO OTHERS
…not based on some airline (trumped up-far reaching) excuse that YOU
created by over booking or faulty scheduling.
4. If indeed those employees did need to get to the destination city in time for their
next shift- you could have put the four of them in a luxury rented Prevost bus-
complete with caviar, champagne and a years supply of gold napkins for less
than what you paid the other passengers to disembark, the damage to your
brand by everyone who has seen the video (which is pretty much everyone in
the western hemisphere and at least half the eastern)
and a heck of a lot less than what the lawsuit is going to cost you. (which even if
it were more (it’s not) it was still your mistake.. so eat it!
Now I know that sometimes the destination city might be farther away than a 5 hour drive (those times would be very few and far between IF you had better employee scheduling) however, in those cases where it does become an issue, you STILL DO NOT drag customers bodily from the plane.
People will give up their seats voluntarily IF they are offered an amount of money to justify their inconvenience. If no one takes the bait ($800 bucks is not a good amount) then it may be due to reasons that would make not arriving on time a serious issue for them and since they booked with you in good faith, you have a complete responsibility and obligation to honor that.
Figure out something else. That is what any other company in the world has to do when
they create a problem for themselves.
So, dear smbiz owner, put this advice in your pipe and smoke it, write in your company manual, have your CEO scream it from the roof tops – seriously, all things like this MUST come from the top down- and have your employees watch videos about what you expect from them regarding the customers, and then have them sign papers stating they understand the company mindset and expectations.
Memorize this mantra:
Inconveniencing our customers because of OUR mistakes is never an option,
and abusing them is down right criminal.