Customer Service

    Ten Things United Airlines Might Have Done

    UnitedAirCouldaDonev1Improving Customer Service at United Airlines Requires a Paradigm Shift and Recognizing They Have a Problem

    Creative Training Would Have Helped

    10 Things United Airlines Might Have Done (see below)

    Once again we have an incident of extremely poor customer service from a major airline. This time it’s United (as it is frequently) who dragged a paying customer off a flight by force. A doctor on a deadline. Incidentally, an Asian man. The video is very hard to watch, it’s sad, degrading, humiliating for the passenger, and an example of brutality visited upon an innocent and trusting consumer. The cops went too far as well, but United made the call and got them involved. United is responsible.

    Other than beating him up or shooting the man it really couldn’t be worse. The CEO made a quasi-apology today but even the apology was half-assed, Oscar Munoz said “I apologize for having to re-accomdate these passengers.” That’s a partial quote but he doesn’t apologize directly to the man they mistreated. Wow. To make matters even worse, the reason they needed people to get off was so they could fly four United employees to a flight they were working. The incident, the background of the problem, and the half-baked apology signal a sick culture. United Airlines is a jaded, faded, uninspired, culture — that will die — unless they pull out of this lack-of-innovation, and lack-of-consumer-empathy death spiral.

    Two Points to Make related to Creativity and Innovation:

    1.) The first thing they need to do is admit they are sick. United is not going to remedy a deeply rooted problem without a massive perspective shift. They are so far away from their mission/vision of “fly the friendly skies” that band-aids (like “investigations”) are not going to work. Without a big change in thinking customer service challenges are going to be like Wach-A-Mole. I’m speaking as someone who has flown over a million miles on United. I’ve seen it myself, and consistently; this whole attitude of the school mistress, or steward-as-drill-Sargent. You get on the plane and if you don’t conform to every little rule they have (which are always changing, and are always changing to make life more miserable for you), you are a dunce until you comply. They treat you like a child, not like a valued customer. There are some lovely people who work for United, and, there are some, quite a few, who need an attitude adjustment. This is a cultural problem. The first thing they need to do is see this sickness as their truth; they need to admit they have a big problem. Then, they need to take action steps to change, see my next point. And how about a full throated, meaningful apology to that poor man?

    2.) Culture change doesn’t happen without a project. How United could change would be to organize an innovation project to improve that would involve every person in their organization. An assessment of their culture is not necessary in my mind, they are proving over and over their culture is anti-customer. Training in customer service and creative thinking would be at the heart of a program, but would also need to find breakthrough new ways to serve customers. It would need to involve C-suite employees — because that’s where empowerment and better service start. That training and innovative change program would be enhanced with creative problem solving training. Also known as “CPS” having the tools to do effective brainstorming on the spot would have avoided this incident. The problem of finding ways to get people to give up a seat is a solvable one without bringing cops onto the plane. I can think of about 10 things they could have done first (see below). According to reports, they made two offers to passengers before the incident. With only a little more divergent thinking this incident would have never happened. United Airlines can’t afford Not to do an innovation project.

    Ten Other Things United Could Have Done To Get Passengers to Give Up Seats:

    1. They could have offered more money. Just up the ante.
    2. They could have offered a free trip.
    3. They could have offered free trips domestically for three months.
    4. They could have offered a free coach international flight.
    5. They could have offered a free membership to the United Club Lounge.
    6. They could have offered free baggage for the next three years.
    7. They could have offered free drinks for a year, or two, or three.
    8. A chance to ride in the cockpit for one flight.
    9. A free upgrade from coach to first class on a future flight.
    10. They could have created a package that combines several of the above ideas.
    11. Bonus idea: How about asking customers what it would take?

    I could think of 20 more without too much trouble. And one or more of them would have worked. United needs to focus itself and ask itself tough questions, and then involve all employees in developing creative, innovative answers.


    “Open For Business” is a Promise Made

    Open for Business  It’s a real joy when a business opens its doors for the first time. “Open for Business” sounds and feels like hope and possibility to me. Starting a new business is where creativity blossoms and where innovation is made real. You’ve created something and you want to deliver that value for a fair payment in return. That’s what an entrepreneur does. Why would the government put anything in the way of a win-win business transaction? The law recently passed in Indiana (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) is being fiercely debated. I really don’t want to comment, much, on the moral aspect of the law, I want to comment instead on what it means to open your doors for business

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    Consumer Revolts – Future Trend

    “Coffee, tea, or, — hey, get the hell off the plane!” Nearly an entire cabin of passengers on a Ryanair flight revolted over the weekend. The incident caused a three hour delay for all passengers, even the non-trouble makers. Nearly 100 passengers deemed by the airline to have caused the trouble, were forced off the plane and must now book their own flights home. They will also incur lodging charges. Some will not be allowed back on Ryanair — those who disobeyed the cabin crew. I guess paying customers are pretty much “extra baggage” to Ryanair. And God forbid anyone should question the cabin crew!  This must be punished! The donnybrook started when a passenger (or a few) was charged

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    The easyJet Philosophy "You Screwed Up, You Trusted Us"

    I posted recently on a really spectacularly bad customer service experience I had at the hands of easyJet.  It’s just two posts down if you want some detail, but essentially I paid for priority boarding and didn’t get it.  I complained and asked for a refund. I finally heard back from them with regard to my complaint. Their answer: No. My interpretation/summary “You Screwed Up, You Trusted Us.” I find the letter (see below) almost comical, and will post it here for your comments.  Am I crazy or what?  Are they really saying they are not able to guarantee a service that I PAID FOR? I understand taking a risk in Vegas…I don’t quite get it here.  I’ll take a

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    Easy Jet, Making a Fast Buck Screwing Customers

    I’ve got nothing against the low cost, no frills airlines, they are a necessary market innovation.  They perform a real service and get me places I need to go. It’s part of the deal that you pay for food, get treated like a cow, and become intimate with people who don’t use deodorant. Airlines have to make money — I want them to!  On the other hand, it makes me very angry when somebody takes my money and doesn’t deliver, like Easy Jet. See, I’m a tallish guy, 6-1. Economy seats in planes are a bit of torture for me. So, I often take up the offer to get “Economy Plus” (that’s United’s program) or “Speedy Boarding” (Easy Jet’s) and

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    BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World (review)

    Customer service has been on my mind lately.  I’ve just had an awful experience with my web hosting company (Hostway, argh…) and it got me thinking. That’s why reading Barry Moltz and Mary Jane Grinstead’s new book, BAM! Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World was so timely for me. It’s helping me dissect how Hostway is losing their edge while I deal with my very real emotions about how I’ve been treated.  But enough about those…people right now, let’s talk about BAM! Let me say straight away this is a great book on the topic.  It’s direct, readable, and elegant with a lot of keen and fresh insight into customer service. I’d say much of it is “common sense”

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    Cineworld Cinema = Uncreative Customer Service

    Quick blog on a topic I often have the urge to rant about, customer service. According to the experts if you want to benefit from positive word of mouth your business has to provide Wow! customer service. Average doesn’t cut it, and bad service actually generates negative word of mouth. I recently bought tickets online to go see Iron Man. I was foaming at the mouth to see this film and was really looking forward to it. I showed up at the Cineworld in High Wycombe and, oops, there was a fire in the theatre (nobody hurt) and I was prevented from even getting within 100 yards. Things happen, I was glad everyone was safe, and so went elsewhere to

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    The "CAM Factor" — Consumer Anger Motivates (C.A.M.)

    I’ve coined a new term today — CAM, an acronym for Consumer Anger Motivates. If the CAM Factor is high, you buy something else! Let me explain… Everybody has consumer nightmare stories. Told afterwards they are often pretty funny. The old adage of “big problems make good stories” does apply. It’s not too funny when it’s happening though! I’ve suffered through a horrendous customer service experience with AT&T in the last few days, including several very frustrating phone calls, long delays on hold, hang-ups by the automated system, multiple transfers within the organization, frustrating attempts to do it myself on the web, and after all that — still not the desired result. A comedy of errors and it really made

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