Company Culture and Customer Service
How did United Airline's Company Culture Contribute to the Incident This Year?
There have been countless views of the YouTube video of the United Airlines incident that happened in April: passengers had boarded the over-booked flight; a United crew needed to get to another city to work that flight, so four passengers were asked to give up their seats. One man elected not to cooperate and was forcibly removed from the flight – and the whole thing was captured on video. This incident has created a firestorm of controversy with everyone weighing in on the source of the problem.
How did United Airline’s company culture contribute to this incident? To be fair, United’s employees did not drag this customer off the plane - a security officer removed the customer, but United Airlines has been taking the flak for their policies that set the stage.
Granted, air travelers are not always the best examples of good behavior. People may attempt to board with more or larger carry-on items than allowed, try to move to empty seats in an upgraded section and behave as though flight attendants are there only to serve them rather than to ensure the safety of the passengers. Rational people understand that the flight attendants are not responsible for the weather or potential mechanical failures, yet they take the brunt of the frustration when delays occur.
Every customer-facing employee will encounter bad behavior at some point. The company’s brand and reputation is at risk when employees don’t respond perfectly in every situation. Since everyone now has the potential to capture every interaction on video, how do you prepare your employees for this type of scrutiny?
We know that engaged employees are invested in the company policies and act according to the corporate culture. In your company, is the “customer always right”? Do employees have the autonomy to solve problems to the customer’s benefit at the company’s cost? Are employees confident that management will support their decisions?
Employee recognition programs help to define and reinforce corporate culture and increase employee engagement. They show by example the behaviors that are valued and rewarded. People instinctively pay attention to what is measured, so if you have an effectively structured employee reward and recognition program in place, your employees understand exactly what is expected. When employees are involved in making the rules, they are more engaged and invested in the process. This is true when designing employee reward and recognition programs as well as developing general company policies.
When companies take care of employees, those employees take better care of their customers. A workforce that is recognized and rewarded is more likely to be highly engaged and will treat customers the way in which the company wants them to be treated: consistent with the culture of the organization.