Once again, another airline incident highlights how the old world mentality of how business’s own failure leads to them punishing their own paying customers. As my previous piece about refund policies highlighted, companies need to stop burdening their own failures onto their customers.
We live in a very socially connected environment and although many corporate entities claim they understand that, they truly don’t seem to understand that such a connected world requires them to act with some empathy.
Julia Underwood, a professor at Azusa Pacific University, said it best, in response to United’s actions in both the ‘dragged-off-the-plane’ incident, “They’re so locked into their policies, there’s no room for empathy,” she said.
As a result, Underwood said, situations that should be manageable spiral out of control and result in unnecessarily messy PR disasters.
“What United and all companies need to do is to train and empower workers to deal with specific issues as they arise,” she said. “Don’t just follow whatever is written in your policies.” – Los Angeles Times
This incident will surely be used as a case study in years to come at business schools across the world, with the main takeaway being that employees need to be empowered to use common sense and critical thinking skills to resolve problems before situations become drastically out of hand (à la PR Nightmare). Another industry takeaway could also be enacting corporate policies that would not treat customers like cargo, interchangeable at the airlines desire. We know that as a business, they are in the people transport business (“human cargo transport”), but that doesn’t sit well with people to be thought of as cargo; thus airlines such as Emirates or the former Virgin America, would give the illusion that airline travel is an experience rather than people-transport business help put us in their marketer’s vision.