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The consequences of a shifting corporate mentality

United+Airlines+reneges+on+the+important+business+model+that+the+customer+is+always+right%2C+leaving+a+large+dent+in+the+%22friendly+skies%22+that+they+promote.
United Airlines reneges on the important business model that the customer is always right, leaving a large dent in the

United Airlines reneges on the important business model that the customer is always right, leaving a large dent in the "friendly skies" that they promote.

George Weed/TOWER

George Weed/TOWER

United Airlines reneges on the important business model that the customer is always right, leaving a large dent in the "friendly skies" that they promote.

Jack Murray, Advertising Manager

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The customer is always right — a phrase that has been used since the early 20th century. To this day, some of the largest businesses still operate under the same motto but recently it seems that corporations are more concerned with employee satisfaction and money rather than the rights of the customer. Furthermore, companies seem to be devaluing the benefit of having a staff capable of solving problems as they come up, a major aspect of keeping customers happy while maintaining a positive image.

On April 9, United Airlines demonstrated a clear lack of problem-solving skills.

David Dao, a doctor, was caught on camera being forcibly removed from a United Airlines flight, to make room for flight attendants who needed to be on another flight the next day. While the company does have some domain over consumer there is a level of respect that should be issued to the buyer.

While there are some arguments to be made against Dao, the “victim” of the United Airlines scandal, including the fact that he was randomly selected to be removed from the flight, in this litigious society in which we live, there is always a chance of lawsuit. Leaving the moral argument aside, United Airlines is an exceptionally well-established company with an incredibly active revenue stream. United Airlines’ only strategy of finding people to remove seems absurd in concept. These people scheduled a flight most likely well before the day of the flight, and United Airlines’ solution was to randomly select people to remove?

Meanwhile, Delta Airlines came out within a week of the incident and said that they were willing to offer up to $9,950 to avoid a similar situation.  The Dao settlement will likely cost United Airlines much more money than that, probably paying upwards of a million dollars.

Another aspect to take into account is what this represents in terms of United Airlines personnel. If the airline failed to handle a mild bump in the works and ended up turning it into a nationally-covered story, that does not reflect well on the staff. A core component to a solid employee is the ability to solve problems. Given that there was not a single employee with the skills necessary to mitigate the damage should be a lesson to other corporations of the importance of having a trained staff who can handle situations requiring improvisation.

While some people might say that having been selected to give up his seat, Dao should have complied and made it easier for both sides. However PR nightmares like these can cause a lot more damage to businesses than the consumer and thus businesses have a responsibility to sort these things out rather than put the blame on the customer. Of course things would have been a lot easier if Dao had just gotten off the flight but there is always the question of what might have happened had United Airlines taken the effort to sort the situation out well before it got out of hand.

United Airlines made a mistake and their failure to truly own up to that is a disappointment to the slogan adopted by companies all over the world. While there is an argument that companies are profit-driven and must protect the revenue stream, United Airlines even failed in that regard. With an issue like this getting as much press as it did, other corporations as well as employees must learn from the mistakes made by United Airlines. On the employee side there is an opportunity to improve on that skill, for it is one of the most valuable skills in business and does not get the recognition it deserves. Being a great problem solver is what separates the good employees from the great ones. On the corporate side, there is a lesson here about the importance of problem solving and having a staff that has that skill. For corporations as well having great problems solvers is what separates the good from the great.

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The consequences of a shifting corporate mentality