United Airlines: The Truth About Customer Service

“The customer is always right” ……

Let’s talk about customer service; one specific incident would be the United Airlines controversy that caused the company close to a billion dollar loss and the CEO’s position. Now just like any other human being I hate to admit when I am wrong, but I am going to eat crow and say that a Facebook post I did a couple of weeks ago was one-sided and single-minded. I read an article featuring the chain of events that had a head line that contained the words “traumatized and fear”. Being a red-blooded American that lived a rougher life than most who has had to work, scratch and fight my whole life to have the things I have, seeing words like those really get my blood boiling. The entire state of society is a confused sensitive mess right now, and I believe that we are over sensitizing everything and causing us to be delicate flowers. I could keep going on my soap box about that topic but I’m going to bring it back to my lane and talk about what I do know…customer service.

Being in the customer service industry for nearly twelve years I am no stranger to every level of interaction with people. I have had happy customers, sad customers, angry customers, and crazy customers. Do you know what every one of those experiences had in common? I was representing not only myself but the company that was on my name badge. I remember back when I was a manager and I would get someone who had a bad eating experience with one of my produce items, without a doubt I would offer them replacement product or anything else they wanted to make them happy. In some cases it would turn to $25 dollar gift cards, at that point the customer would feel satisfied with their experience and eventually leave happy. You may ask yourself “why would you give away free product that is causing shrink?” well look at it this way; the margins on most product are fairly good so if I give up a few items to make up for a bad experience and turn it into a good one what does that do for my business? The customer will hopefully return and continue to purchase items and eventually I will make the money back with my repeat business. So what if I had blown them off and tell them to kick rocks?

A customer is 9 times more likely to share a bad experience than a good or great experience.  Why? Well if you are paying your hard-earned money for a product or service you expect to receive top-notch, so when you do get it nothing stands out in your mind. Now there are times when service or the bang for your buck far exceeds your expectations and you rant on about it to your friends, coworkers, and family members. The second you are let down by a product or service you instantly feel cheated and want to share it with every one you know so they do not experience the same let down as you. Combined with the lovely world of social media a bad experience can go viral in a second and bankrupt a person or business.

So going back to United, I listened to a podcast the other day where Andy Frisella was talking about policies and how one under trained employee caused a whole chain of events to unfold. It may have been in the employee manual that the “max amount” to offer a passenger is $800. But look at what the policy has caused the company, close to a billion dollars in revenue, lost investors, future investors questioning their position, future customers, and their top leader his position. Looking at all of that it may seem a little extreme that one company has to face all of that just for one “incident” but is it? A company’s culture is the most important tool they will ever have, more important than facilities, more important than products, and more important than revenue. It is more important because without culture none of those other aspects will be obtained, and even if they are first without creating the right culture they will not last. A company’s success is a direct reflection of their culture; you cannot build a strong building if the foundation is built on sand. Who is to say they haven’t because I do not know much about the company but can you imagine if the CEO would have spent extra money in training the employee’s how to deescalated a situation in times like we witnessed in the plane? What about a process of bumping people from the plane once it’s already boarded? I do not know how they decided that was the guy that needed to get off the plane but once he refused why did they keep pressing it? This is where the $800 offer comes back into play, why isn’t there a plan B, C, D and even E once you cannot get anyone to take the offer? I guarantee you if the Pilot got on the loud-speaker and said ladies and gentlemen we need a few seats to be vacant who wants $3k and a free flight to Aruba? Half that plane would have figured out how to change their travel arrangements to accept the offer. But none of that happened, the employees stuck to the policies and what could have only costed United Airlines $5k at most has turned to so much worse.

I leave you with the one sentence that makes every customer service employees skin crawl….

“The customer is always right”

 

Words and Wisdom from Experience,

Blake 

 

Leave a Reply