This is the second in a three-post series about recent trends and lessons-learned in customer experience.  Sign-up for future posts.

Not all customer experience journeys are created equal.  The airline industry has experienced their share of turbulence in recent years (deservedly so) for losing guitars, cost concerns (price-fixing), aberrant employee behavior and other lapses in service.United: Flying Upside Down –United’s Mileage Plus program leads (?) the nation with the most convoluted boarding plan.  Their multi-tiered frequent flyer system created confusion at the gate as “preferred” members kept approaching the counter to determine whether or not their plan still existed and if it had been called to board.  Further, it represents a stick in the eye for the everyday riff raff passengers who were asked to gate check their luggage so that the plane could meet its “on time departure” metrics.  Companies like United are now trying to solve the dual problems (baggage fees and lost luggage) of their own making.

Lesson(s):

  1. If you want customers’ help, offer them something unexpected in return.  After asking for volunteers to check their luggage the gate crew could have easily provided some compensation to those who would now be inconvenienced with the hassle of getting their luggage off the carousel later.   A free drink coupon?  Anyone… anyone… Bueller?
  2. While the pilot did ask patrons to complete a satisfaction survey on their website, the feedback mechanism is hard to find.  It could also use a quick re-tooling to differentiate between good and bad feedback (as jetBlue does).  I’ve completed the survey and will let you know what I hear back.
  3. Finally, if everyone is special, no one is.  Without exaggerating I believe there were at least 4 “special” boarding groups before the common folk boarded the plane.  (Upon researching, it’s actually worse.  Here is a link to an explanation of the process which outstrips even the US Income Tax filing in complexity.)

All this aside, United Airlines did accomplish their primary mission since we reached our destination safely.  In our frustration, we often take this for granted.

The pivot point is that while airlines have taken a beating at the hands of upset consumers they have overlooked far too many “easy” fixes to their customer experience woes.

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