Like many of you, I watched the video of the United Airlines passenger being dragged off a flight with horror and sadness. It was an awful scene, and for those of you who have not heard the story, here are the basics… passengers had boarded a flight in Chicago, bound for Louisville. It was a full flight, but United needed to get four of its employees on board. United offered flight vouchers to anyone who voluntarily got off the flight. No one volunteered. So they randomly chose four people, one of whom refused.
The video that has been posted on social media does NOT show what happened in the early stages of the conversation between the passenger who was refusing, and flight attendants. We have no idea if the person was abusive and rude, quietly respectful, or anything in between. The video picks up after an altercation had already begun between the passenger and several security officers, who had been called onto the flight. The video of the ensuing altercation is tough to watch. The passenger is screaming, bloodied, and gets literally dragged by his wrists up the aisle and off the plane.
This video will be terrible for United Airlines, and soon after another recent PR disaster over passenger clothing. It will hurt United deeply, on the bottom line and the stock price. And as I was watching this video, I was thinking about our own business here at The Latimer Group. This video should make you think about yours. Because our relationship with our customers is tenuous, always. Every day, every interaction is a job interview, and a chance to gain or lose customers. United can have a great year, get nothing but great reviews, have full flights, be at the top of their game. And then something like this can undo a thousand good things, in a matter of moments. And not just for United. For your company and mine as well.
We have always lived in a customer-centric world. But the stakes have never been higher, and successful customer engagement never harder. Why? Because people have choice. They have information. They share information with each other. And everything can get posted on line and onto social media in a matter of moments. This is a terrible story, no question. But if it happened in 2002 instead of 2017, there would be no viral video posted on YouTube, which makes the whole thing so much more real, and so much more shareable.
Every day is a job interview. Every meeting you have, every interaction, every phone call, every conversation, is a chance to gain or lose customers, brand, and marketshare. Don’t forget this reality, ever.
Good luck, and have a great day.