With United Airlines posting heavy losses this quarter while its competitors reported healthy profits, the blame game has begun to escalate. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” no longer seems to be working, as CEO Jeff Smisek is now on the hot seat for the way he has guided United during his 3+ year tenure.
A piece in the Huffington Post by David Fagin entitled “Why United’s Jeff Smisek Is the Worst CEO in the Business” makes the argument that the key ingredient to a successful business is trust and passengers don’t trust United anymore.
I’d say that is rather non-controversial argument to those who fly United often and we need only look around us to see that investors do not trust United anymore, regular passengers do not trust United anymore, and United employees do no trust their leaders. That last element is perhaps the most damning, because United’s front-line staff is critical for United to win back customers.
And yet even that is not enough. One UA FA wrote the following–
If you went down to the MX shop and took away their tools, how effective would they be at fixing the planes? Likewise, when you remove the resources for providing a good customer experience, how effective will your frontline personnel be? You can’t “fake” a blanket for someone who’s cold, or “pretend” a meal for someone who’s hungry.
How very true.
I do not have a magic solution for United, but here are five brief tips on this beautiful Sunday afternoon for regaining customer trust–
- If you say you are going to rapidly install wi-fi, rapidly install wi-fi
- If you say a flight will have meals available for purchase, ensure that there are meals available for purchase
- If scheduled departure time is in 30 minutes and the aircraft is not even on the ground yet, let people know the flight will be delayed and provide frequent updates, even if just to announce status quo
- Do not even think about further cutting back the MileagePlus program or going to a wholly revenue-based program in 2015
- Train your flight attendants to address every premium class passenger by name during every onboard interaction and that the conclusion of meal service does not mean gab time, it means drink time, as in you need to monitor the cabin every 2-3 minutes for anyone who might need a refill
There are a lot more where that came from, but these modest tips above require no additional monetary outlay and would go a long way toward starting to rebuild lost trust, particularly among those disgruntled travelers who are strongly considering a defection to American Airlines or Delta. And without them, the “all-important” institutional investors will not make their money back and also be unhappy.