United Airlines is sending employees back to school with a laudable goal: cultivating the compassion, discernment, and empathy of every front-line worker.
Almost a year after the Dao incident, United is following through on its promise to fundamentally reshape its customer service model.
> Read More: United Airlines Reveals Major Policy Changes
As part of the “core4” program I outlined here, flight attendants, gate agents, and other customer-facing agents will participate in an interactive training course meant to teach how to better to handle passengers. Training will focus on judgment calls, the gray area in which employees still maintain some discretion. Should a flight be held for a straggling family or senior citizen? How should an angry passenger be handled? What does it really mean to balance the often-competing interests of efficiency and empathy?
Employees will “role play” various scenarios in an effort to collaboratively learn, not just from the instructors, but from each other.
But United will go beyond that with a new partnership announced this morning.
New Partnership with Special Olympics International
United Airlines and Special Olympics International will team up to provide additional in-depth employee training. The goal: treat passengers with intellectual disabilities with dignity.
As part of the relationship, United will implement new employee training scenarios to make traveling a positive experience for individuals with intellectual disabilities. By the end of 2018, more than 60,000 United frontline employees will participate in new training modules that reflect Special Olympics’ insights as the airline takes steps to lead in inclusion.
This is part of core4, but a separate training module than the more widely-reported customer service training.
It’s easy to say passengers with intellectual disabilities should be treated with care and dignity, but how does that manifest itself practically? That’s an important question that I applaud United for taking seriously.
This training may be of limited value if United President Scott Kirby insists upon D:00 [on-time departure] as the single most important metric, but let’s not dismiss yet. We can all agree that many United agents are in need of customer service training…hopefully this will be the start of correcting a problem that has haunted United and Continental for decades.