Published on: April 13, 2017
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Hi, I'm Kevin Coupe and this is FaceTime with the Content Guy.
So, I'm in the pundit business. Which means, I think, that I'll get drummed out of the union if II don't do a commentary this week about United Airlines, a company that has had about as bad a public relations week as I can imagine.
The thing is, I'm trying to figure out what to say about it. We've all seen the video of that guy being dragged off the plane by authorities, body limp, bleeding from the mouth, screaming at the top of his lungs ... all because United needed four seats for a flight crew that needed to get to the destination.
I do have some thoughts, though ... lessons that can be learned from a situation that is, to say the least, FUBAR.
• Employees cannot behave like automatons. They have be engaged and empowered enough to make decisions. Like, maybe, look around and see that as they are planning to drag the guy out, pretty much everybody is shooting video with their smartphones. You'd think someone would've said, this isn't a good idea.
• People have to use common sense. The plane in question was going from Chicago to Louisville, Kentucky ... and if they'd thought about it, the flight crew or the passengers could've taken an Uber there in less than five hours ... and it would've cost the airline a helluva lot less than this little disaster is going to cost them.
• People have to think long-term. My understanding is that the airlines lobbied the federal government so that there is a thousand-dollar cap on how much they are allowed to offer passengers being bumped off flights. That might've looked like a good way to avoid bigger payments most of the time, but again, if they'd offered $2000 or a year of free flights to the folks on the Chicago flight, I'll bet they would've gotten some takers. On the other hand, if I had to get somewhere to give a speech, that wouldn't have been nearly enough to get me off the plane. But long-term thinking beats short-term thinking.
• People have to communicate...and understand that everything they say will eventually be heard by everyone. Clearly, the ground crew did not communicate the issues clearly to the passengers ... and CEO Oscar Munoz, when sending a memo to employees saying he was "emphatically" behind them, didn't think (or didn't care) that he was telling his paying customers that he wasn't on their side. If you are in a customer-facing business, that's a bad idea.
The thing is, as bad as United's situation is this week, it strikes me as entirely possible that the same sort of thing could happen to any customer-facing business.
Sometimes, employees follow procedure even when procedure clearly is leading to disaster. Sometimes they don't use common sense, because a culture has drilled it into them not to use their best judgement. Sometimes they make short-term decisions without thinking about the long-term implications. And sometimes...in fact, frequently...people and companies do a lousy job of communicating value and values to customers and employees.
I think most companies and most leaders probably looked at United's situation and said, what a mess.
But what they should've said is, how do I make changes in my organization to insure that it doesn't happen here.
That's what is on my mind this morning, and as always, I want to hear what is on your mind.
- KC's View: