Never underestimate the importance of maintaining a good company brand. The recent horrific event that took place on United Airlines illustrates this point, and shows how company policy and procedures can interfere with and destroy a company’s brand.
When Dr. David Dao was assaulted and dragged unconscious off the aircraft for refusing to give up his paid-for seat, it showed total lack of customer care, compassion, and ethics. The incident happened after United flight attendants could not find any takers for an $800 travel voucher credit due to an overbooked flight. The management followed company policy which involved selecting four paying customers to be removed from the plane, rather than raising the value of the travel credit until they found four volunteers. This procedure lacked common sense and showed no respect or value towards ANY of their customers.
Other passengers used their cellphones and videotaped the terrible incident then posted it online. The videos quickly went viral across the world. In this day and age, social media plays a huge part in establishing a brand, keeping a brand intact and reinforcing a brand. Public perception can swiftly change for the better or worse based on what’s trending on social media. In a way, social media now polices a company brand.
United Airlines officials made several serious gaffes, further harming their brand by how they initially reacted to the incident. United’s stock plummeted and customers boycotted the airline. After several days, United’s CEO Oscar Munoz finally reacted with common sense and compassion but the damage was done. I think he finally recognized how maintaining a good company brand can affect his bottom line!
Like all airlines and many large corporations, United operates in a rules-based environment, and apparently doesn’t allow their employees and management to make real-time decisions in the field based on a case-by-case basis. United officials are now revising their company policies. Hopefully they will give more power and responsibility to the management on the front lines to best serve their customers.
Maintaining a good customer brand means putting your customers first. Treat them with courtesy and respect. Consider changing any policies you may have in place that may hinder that strategy. When technology, trends and customer preferences change, you should adapt and change your policies and procedures to best serve your customer’s needs.