Another open letter to United on Facebook

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Some time ago I wrote an article about the need for United to do something about incompetent employees. I highlighted the customer service roller coaster that United takes you on – sometimes you get exceptional treatment and customer service, other times not so much. Of course, things aren’t always going to go well, but it’s become a staple of United and to reverse that reputation the change must be all the more drastic…even radical. An open letter to United was posted by Christa Horton Biddle on Facebook yesterday, and it appears to be more of the same.

Here’s the full letter:

Dear United Airlines, I believe you need to know about a certain employee in the Denver Airport.
Last night, 6/7, 2017, my parents were attempting to line up for the 5:55pm flight to Nashville. There was a bit of confusion as to which group was to line up. It was at that time one of your employees began her tirade on my sweet mother.

“Get to the back of the line! I didn’t call your group yet!”

My mother, embarrassed, apologized. She and my father moved to the back of the group continuing to check with others to make sure everyone was in order. Alas, said employee was not finished.

“She’s not listening to me!” She blasted as she pointed both fingers to her ears.

“Yes, I am” My mom said, horrified and embarrassed. At this point people were looking around shocked at how the woman was speaking to a customer.

“No, you’re not! You need to listen to me!” she yelled again.

By the time my mother got to the gate to hand her boarding pass to this ridiculously rude and hateful United Airlines employee, the woman had the nerve to then say

“I’m glad you’re leaving!”

Are you kidding me?!! My poor, sweet mother, travel-weary and fighting sickness, was now fighting tears on her way home. Home from what was supposed to be a vacation for she and my father. This short, brunette woman (all the description my mother could give me) made such a horrific impression that multiple people came up to my mother asking her if she was ok and commenting on how horribly she’d been treated. Three hours later when they landed in Nashville, people were still talking about it.

I can forgive anyone a bad day. I’ve had them myself. However, this woman’s behavior was completely inexcusable! She needs a reminder on how to treat people. I will never fly United again. I’ve traveled extensively in my life and I’ve had my share of good and bad experiences. But when you yell at my sweet Mama…….. Lord have mercy, you have one ticked off daughter that will never fly United Airlines again.

Is this story accurate? I have no idea. The problem is that it’s easy for me to believe it. I immediately remembered one of my own similar experiences here. I also remembered about another negative experience -in Denver, like Mrs. Horton above- a few months ago, which I didn’t bother to write about. And therein lies the problem. It doesn’t matter much whether the story is true. It matters whether it’s believable because it’s the norm…and that’s enough for United to retain the reputation that they have earned. In this latest claim, I believe compensation can make things right, but…

In my previous post I talked about four possibilities for this to be happening:

  • United isn’t conducting formal performance reviews with its front line associates.
  • If conducting formal performance reviews, then United isn’t gathering the appropriate set of data to have the necessary insight into each employee’s performance.
  • If conducting formal performance reviews AND gathering the appropriate data, then United is failing to hold employees accountable for their incompetence or deviation from the ‘friendly skies’ values that the company swears by.
  • If conducting formal performance reviews AND gathering the appropriate data AND claiming to hold employees accountable, then United doesn’t deserve anyone’s business.

In essence, it all comes down to accountability. Have you heard of the Oz principle? It’s a book about driving results through increasing personal and organizational accountability. For those of you who are familiar, United has been below the line for a long time now, but that doesn’t mean all is lost. Domino’s Pizza took it to heart and see awesome results! It’s time now for United’s turnaround.

Give me your thoughts