There are bad weeks and then there are United Airlines bad weeks.
I don’t want to recap everything that happened in the course of 7 days to the folks over at United, as I’m sure you already know, but it goes without saying that forcibly (that’s a kind term) removing a passenger from a flight and knocking him and his two front teeth out in the process, and then having a scorpion sting a passenger all in the span of a few days is… a bad week. A public relations nightmare.
Unless you have the right public relations team in place. Which, United cleared does (did?) not.
Taking three tries before even offering something that resembled an apology to the man who was publicly beaten is unacceptable. It’s beyond repair, honestly. It’s not a public relations problem anymore. Now it’s a humanity problem.
But one you can recover from, United. If you have the right people in place. People such as myself. I have the solution. I have the answer of how you can get your customers back.
United is not surprisingly looking for new PR specialists, so here’s my unsolicited job interview that includes my four-step plan to getting back in the good graces of the American public and ultimately, the world.
If you don’t like watching videos, or don’t know how to watch, here’s my plan in text form for your reading pleasure.
People aren’t dumb. Well, okay, some are. A lot are. But most people can sniff out insincerity from a mile away like some sort of sincerity bloodhound. People don’t respond to “We’re sorry” anymore. Especially when you’re on your third attempt. Actions. Actions speak louder than words (and I’m a man with great experience), so you must act. Not talk.
First, free stuff. I suggest cake, but it could be anything. Offering up free cake, pizza or alcohol on flights will bring people back. And don’t hide the cost in your fare prices. You’ve got to spend money to make this work and unfortunately, after the latest scandals, you’re going to have to bite the bullet and spend a lot of it.
Secondly, more free stuff. Give us our checked bags for free. Stop nickle and diming us every chance you get. I flew United once and on top of paying for my checked bag, they then wanted to charge me for it being 2 pounds overweight! Yet for some reason, when I took those two pounds our of my bag and put them in my wife’s underweight bag, the charge disappeared. WHY? The exact same weight went on the plane! It’s just another excuse to squeeze an extra $25 out of me. And don’t tell me it’s for the sake of baggage handlers. Those are strong, tough folks who won’t blink at an extra two pounds over their minimally required 50. No more charging for checked bags. I know this will hurt your bottom line, but sacrifices must be made to bring people back.
I would say that top executive heads should roll after this, and perhaps after some half-assed apologies from your CEO, they should. But I also know that telling the boss of a company they should be fired during a job interview is no way to get hired. So I will not suggest that Mr. Munoz should step down. This is the time for him to step up and show the country he’s making real change. Not the kind that politicians promise. Actual change.
How do we make that change work for us?
Ah, glad you asked.
This is where it gets really interesting, yet absolutely necessary.
You collect thousands of fares every day. My plan entails taking out a penny, a dime, a dollar… whatever, out of every fare you collect, put that in a pot and have daily lotteries. A passenger’s ticket is their entry. Every day, you hold daily lotteries where random people are singled out – in a good way – as winners of the jackpot!
Think about it. People have many choices when flying (your attendants using remind us of this at the conclusion of our flights), but what makes them pick one over the other are the perks. And I can’t think of any better perks than free food, free checked bags and the chance to win thousands, if not millions, of dollars, simply by clicking that United tab when booking my flight.
And finally, and this is probably the easiest step to execute: be people. Be real people who actually care about other people. If you screw up, admit it, genuinely apologize, explain a plan to never let it happen again and move on. If that doesn’t work, repeat steps 1-3.