It’s hard to miss all the discussion around United Airlines the past few weeks over what happened when a flight got overbooked and they needed to address the issue: big failure. The publicity around the event has been crazy, and rightfully so. There are tons of ways this could have been handled and wasn’t. In business I think most of us try to do our best when it comes to working with our customers, so maybe you got a chuckle over what happened, after you got over your disbelief. After all, who would handle this situation like that? Let’s take a look at a few thoughts on the whole event.
First, let’s talk about the situation and actions taken. Would the violence and severity of the actions taken have been the right course of action if it were a life and death issue, yes. As many reports have revealed there were at least a handful of other options that could have been pursued before this degree of action was taken.
Second, as you may know, I’m a big believer in not trying to be everything for everyone. I don’t think we business owners need to try to please everyone or offer our product/service to everyone. What we offer isn’t for everyone. So when we run across the stubborn individual who decides they absolutely have to work with/buy from even though it’s not a good match and then ends up leaving a nasty review because (as we knew) we weren’t what they were really looking for, it’s frustrating. However, while we may not have to offer something to everyone, that doesn’t give us the right or reason to treat our non-ideal customers or interested parties in a rude, aggressive, or disrespectful manner. Just because there’s an issue with them it doesn’t mean that we can ignore that they’re human too. And as long as they’re not being aggressive or threatening, there’s no reason or right to treat them in that manner, nor are the issues something you need to air in the public space.
Finally, the ever challenging concept of handling problems. We won’t get it right 100% of the time, but we can do more to get it right more often. As I said there were some options left to United before they escalated to the level that they did, yet they chose not to take those options. Often there’s a simple way to resolve the issue and usually it involves money in the form of a refund or credit. Some companies have chosen to offer free returns as a way to alleviate any initial fears buyers may have about purchases. Another simple solution is to give people the answer they’re looking for, sometimes all that is necessary to make the customer happy is a little troubleshooting and being available to listen to their feedback. They may not respond and they may not change their negative review (some people prefer to be unhappy and leave a nasty (and often irrelevant) review), but you’ll have at least extended the olive branch.
Procedures and policies are in place for a reason and when they’re not followed we end up with unnecessary issues like United, and often those issues revolve around how we treat others. I encourage you to take time to evaluate your policies this week and make sure you’re really prepared for situations that could occur, and that you’re first and foremost handling them with communication and compassion.