The Inwardly Focused Leadership Of United Airlines
I do not like running down people or companies on this blog.Â That is not how I roll as I prefer to be more informative and inspirational.Â People already have enough bad news in their lives.
Recently,Â my family went on vacation and weÂ had some great customer service experiences:
- I pre-ordered Michael Hyatt’s incredible book Platform on Amazon.Â It arrived the day they said it would.
- I gotÂ wonderful customer service by a server named Frank at Applebee’s restaurant on Exit 94 off I-95 just south of Savannah, GA.
- The Bed’N'Biscuit kennel where we board our dog upgraded us to the “Butterfly Suite”Â soÂ our petÂ could watch the Weather Channel all week.Â I don’t know what that means but I appreciated it.
- The new Hampton Inn on Jekyll Island is a great place to stay.Â Right on the beach with nice amenities.
- My Honda Accord, which I purchased in December at Henessy Honda in Woodstock, drove comfortably and got nice gas mileage for the 7-hour trip each way.
This is what I like talking about which unfortunately brings me to United Airlines.
Earlier this monthÂ I flew roundtrip from Atlanta to Raleigh-Durham on United.Â There was a foreign lady who spoke little if any EnglishÂ who sat in the wrong seat in my section.Â Regular travelers are used to this and so as the dominoes fell, five people easily moved to their proper seats while the stewardess looked on in disgust.
Then, the same lady stayed on her cell phone too long while the plane began pulling away from the gate.Â Let’s be honest.Â Someone does this on practically every flight so, once again, regular passengers are used to this.Â However, theÂ stewardess had enough and began to condescendingly order her in an elevated voice to put the phone up.Â I truly felt she was picking on her because she was foreign and not an experienced passenger.Â I almost said something to the stewardess.Â I should have said something to the stewardess.
On the flight home, I asked theÂ representative at the gate if there were any seats closer to the front that I could possibly move to.Â She said, “If there are, that will be $50.”Â I stayed in my seat.Â The crew on the flight home wereÂ equally joyless and robotic in their dealings with the passengers.
I normally just let things go and will request a different airline next timeÂ but something changed my mind.Â Â In the Wednesday May 23rd Money section of the USA Today, the headline read “United drops early boarding for families.”
This is what is written in the third paragraph of the article – “The airline adopted the policy last month ‘to simplify the boarding process and to reduce the overall number of boarding groups,’ says United spokesman Charles Hobart.”
With all due respect to Mr. Hobart who I’m sure is a very nice man, the boarding process is already very simple for passengers.Â Â A zone number is called.Â Â Then aÂ boarding pass is scanned.Â We board the plane.Â It is pretty straightforward.
Based upon my recent dealings with United, the simplicityÂ they are seeking is for their employees and processes, not their customers.Â My experienceÂ communicates to me thatÂ United has become inwardly focused.Â Â I would like to say that as a business traveler, you have my complete blessing to once again board families with small children first.
An inwardly focused organizationÂ happensÂ notÂ just toÂ well-known businesses butÂ also toÂ churches.Â It becomes about our needs, our comfort, our simplicity, our bottom-line, our policies, and our desires rather than those we are called to serve.
United Airlines, here are a few suggestions from someone who will forgive you and wants to use your services again:
- Reinstate early boarding for families.
- Drop the $50 fee for switching seats.
- But most importantly, provide a copy of Linchpin by Seth Godin for each of your employees.Â This book will teach them to view themselves as artists and that each customer interaction and flight is merely a canvas in which they can potentially paint a masterpiece.
And if you want to seeÂ an artist at work, have each airline employee visit Applebee’s off Exit 94 on I-95 when passing through Savannah.Â Ask to sit in Frank’s area.Â He’ll show you how it’s done.
Leaders, rather than pile on, let’s keep this conversation at a high level.Â What are someÂ examples of GREAT customer service you have experienced lately?
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