As I am sure you are aware, United Airlines has had some pretty horrible PR lately. If you are unaware, here you go. Having just settled for an undisclosed amount, United will be hoping that they have finally forcibly dragged this whole nightmare under the overbooked rug once and for all.
While the settlement Dr Dao received was most likely incredibly large, no amount of money in the world is going to help United recover from breaking the first rule of customer service. What is the first rule of customer service? The customer always comes first.
Sure, there was definitely shock and concern surrounding the overly-physical way in which Dr Dao was removed from his flight, but the issue that really struck a chord with people was the lack of respect United showed to one of its paying customers.
United Airlines is the third largest airline in the US, so it is easy to understand the outrage when they put their priorities ahead of their customers’.
In response to the absolute tsunami of on and offline vitriol they received, United recently issued the following 10 customers service policy changes:
While the majority of these new policies seem more legal than anything else, there is one that United should really pay more attention to:
6. United will provide agents with additional annual training.
Watching the shocking footage of Dr Dao being dragged from his seat, it is clear that no one involved had been trained thoroughly (or correctly).
Training is crucial in any business. While it would be extreme to train your staff for the exact situation United found themselves in with Dr Dao, their staff members should have the tools and knowledge to deal with it without reverting to calling the police.
When Dr Dao was asked to give up his seat, it is no surprise that he was less than impressed. Dr Dao had the right to react with a range of emotions — anger, disappointment, confusion, etc. The one group of people who did not have this right, however, were the airline and security staff involved in the incident.
You would never drag a customer with a reservation out of a restaurant because a staff member wanted to have dinner, would you?
Like any company, United is in the business of customer service. Where there are customers, there will inevitably be conflict, be it between staff or other customers. After all, a customer complaint at 30,000 feet is still a complaint.
Could any of the strategies employed in the above video apply to Dr Dao’s case?
If the immediate handling of the situation was not bad enough, matters got a whole lot worse for United when news spread to social media. How bad did they get? How about the fact the United Airlines’ stock dropped by $1.4 billion?
While these monetary consequences will surely hurt United, it was their failure to empathetically and sincerely apologise to Dr Dao, his family, and their entire customer base following the incident that will do the most damage over time.