An awful story broke on the world news stage this month when United Airlines cabin crew insisted that a passenger’s dog had the be placed in an overhead compartment during an internal flight.
Press reports stated that United has a policy that allows passengers to bring certain breeds of dog on board flights, so long as they are in an animal carry bag and can be placed on the floor in front of the owner’s feet, and just under the seat in front.
On this occasion, the cabin crew did not know of, or failed to apply, the policy, and insisted that the animal’s carry bag needed to be placed in the overhead compartment. The 10-month old puppy died of asphyxiation during the flight with many passengers traumatised by the event and reporting it widely on social media, before the world’s press picked it up.
It is not the first time United Airlines’ reputation has been undermined because of a lack of knowledge of its policies and/or the actions of its staff. In April 2017 Dr David Dao was filmed by passengers being dragged off a Chicago flight to make space for four crew members.
Dr Dao was injured during the incident which later resulted in an out of court settlement and led to senior management changes on United’s Board of Directors. United’s reputation was severely affected, as was their share price.
So, what can companies learn from these two highly public incidents?
Customers Should be at the Heart of Everything
When businesses are recruiting for customer facing staff, it is important that the right people – who have people skills and love working with people, even in difficult situations – are selected.
When training managers in the interview and selection process, it is vital to ensure they understand how to recruit people with the right attitude; to deliver the customer service required to meet the business and customer needs. Within this process, they must also ensure that they are suitable to work within a team environment and can get on with the other people in the team. Teamwork is just as important as customer service skills.
Specific customer service training is also essential to ensure the vision, values and behaviours expected of staff are instilled at the earliest possible moment of their role.
- this ensures everyone knows what is expected of them, what policies and procedures are in place (and if they are not sure of the answer to a query, who to ask or who to pass the query onto)
- it also enables customer service staff to know and understand what tools they can use, for example, customer service vouchers (which may defuse the situation)
Another part of customer service is knowing what to do in difficult situations and this is when customer service is at its best. Conflict Awareness training should be in place, so staff know the company’s policy and the reasons why training should be followed at all times. This will help them to defuse and resolve situations, keep themselves safe and manage customers’ expectations.
The Benefits of Great Customer Service
When all this is in place the benefits are less complaints, happier customers and a good reputation for customer service. When everything is as it should be, media coverage will be focusing on the positive aspects of a business.
The recent January 2018 UK Customer Satisfaction Index report showed the top five companies for customer satisfaction as Amazon, First Direct, Yorkshire Bank, Superdrug and John Lewis.
When people dealt with these companies they were confident in the knowledge they would be listened to and treated well as individuals.
Customers that are treated in this way are inclined to pay more for a service or product knowing they will receive a better service from the retailer or provider. Other companies are often measured against these top-ranking businesses and staff training is very important to maintain, improve and (possibly) save reputations.
Staff Development is Vital
The courses I deliver in Customer Service, Conflict Awareness, Interview and Selection and teamwork help staff to be competent and confident in their work.
As their confidence builds it allows them to think outside of the normal situations that may occur and, by applying commonsense, can avoid difficult situations and/or confrontation.
Reputation matters. It is hard won, and all too easily lost.
- Putting the right steps in place to protect the reputation of your company is a vital element in running a successful business.
- Training your staff to help that process has numerous positive and wider-reaching benefits.
United Airlines have a long way to go, to now demonstrate they are the company passengers previously expected them to be. Don’t put your employees in the position where they are exposed to situations they should know how to handle.
ABOUT ANN HOAD
As a professional trainer, I’ve delivered over 20 different types of courses, including leadership and management training, solving problems and making decisions, changing perceptions and behaviours, diversity and inclusion, and performance management.
I’ve been involved in Learning and Development since 2003 (within the corporate world), and have run my own Training Consultancy and Personal Development & Life Coach business since 2014.
I am an Associate CIPD Member and have a Level 3 in Direct Learning and Support (that includes the A1 Assessor unit). I’ve also worked with The Coaching Academy as an Internal Assessor for their SFEDI Level 5 Diploma in Personal Performance Coaching since 2017.
I take tremendous pride in training the next generation of leaders, managers and trainers, while continuing to design and deliver training for companies and organisations (either directly or through L&D agencies).
If you would like to discuss the training needs for your company or organisation, please contact me to arrange a meeting.