Well, United is in the news again, this time for charging a $200 overweight baggage fee to an American service member returning from Afghanistan. Why was his baggage so heavy? Souvenirs? Illicit goods? No, in his government issued bag was his government issued body armor, Kevlar helmet, etc.
Why does United keep committing so many faux pas? I have a pretty good guess.
This behavior is consistent with a micro-managing senior leaders who have never dealt with real, actual customers. Instead, they generate reams of regulations meant to cover every possible situation with the focus on protecting the bottom line. While there may or may not be harsh penalties for failure to adhere to the myriad rules, the message from top management is clear—you employees are not to make decisions on your own. Employees when faced with a potential customer relations fiasco no longer see the craziness, because the rules must be followed. I’d not be surprised to hear the following in the employee-only areas, “This would be a great job, if it weren’t for the customers.”
The cure, a change of culture to one focused on the customer.
Step one? A wholesale change of top managements, starting with the financial types. Change the focus from dollars to customers and the company will do better. Will some stockholders balk and sell off their shares? Yep, but they’ll sell out soon anyways. Those stockholders are the ones who only want the quick buck—a big return this quarter. If this puts the company in a death spiral, they don’t care, because they’ll leave as soon as big quarterly gains or dividends slow.
Let the stockholders know that the airline will be customer focused—that it’s in the business for the long haul. Wise investors understand that. Stockholders who don’t like that approach should invest their money in Pan American, Eastern, Braniff, TWA, or their current equivalents.