If you have an adaptive culture, one where all are motivated by a shared purpose, and vision, where each associate feels a sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose, it reinforces itself and protects itself from bad leadership, bad profits, bad practices. Such a culture is consistently obsessed about customer's needs, and better ways to service them through connecting to each other, to partners, government, competition and even the emerging fringe that comes up with the 1% potential ideas that will move your organization forward. I often say this is like erecting a 5,000 lbs flywheel and getting to spin at 3 RPM. Once it gets to 20 RPM you just have to step back and allow it go generate benefits, and ensure no one, or thing screws it up.

United has clearly lost its way, very similarly to how Wells Fargo forgot that Trust is the one thing that matters for a bank, Service/Reliability is what matters for transportation companies. There are a few offical quotes that just made me cringe over the past couple of days that are just as haunting to a CX professional as is the horrific video of the poor Dr. Dao being bloodied and drug off a plane against his will.

  • “I apologize for having for having to re-accommodate these customers,” United C.E.O. Oscar Munoz said in a statement Monday.

In an letter to employees on Monday C.E.O. Oscar Munoz continued:

  • "...As you will read, this situation was unfortunately compounded when one of the passengers we politely asked to deplane refused and it became necessary to contact Chicago Aviation Security Officers to help. "
  • "...While I deeply regret this situation arose, I also emphatically stand behind all of you, and I want to commend you for continuing to go above and beyond to ensure we fly right."
  • "...Treating our customers and each other with respect and dignity is at the core of who we are, and we must always remember this no matter how challenging the situation." (per vanityfair.com)

Then on Tuesday C.E.O. Oscar Munoz, realizing the Public Relations gravity of the situation, leverage his communicator of the year assets and stated: “We are going to fix what’s broken so this never happens again,” Munoz said, promising a public report by April 30 on a review into United’s partnerships with law enforcement, its policies on giving seats to employees and overbooking. (per washingtonpost.com)

It was once said to me that "Culture is the oven that bakes your cake of Business Strategy". Given the lost of confidence both in the stock market, customer base, social and general media, and the global public - I would have to agree with that saying...

I want to caution Mr. Munoz that this is no quick fix. Business are the way they are for very good reasons, and there are a number of conflicting business "Inside-Out" compromises that will need to be unknotted for you to even get near understanding all of the customer pain points and trapped value pockets that have been created by this fractured web of harmful customer and employee experiences that created a culture of complicit compliance to knowingly bad policy, and treatments of our fellow human beings - not to mention your paid guests.

By setting the high expectations of "we are going to fix what's broken..." and report out on it by April 30th, means that

  1. You've already got a handle on what you are doing wrong (and have been doing it knowingly for a while), or
  2. You have no idea what's wrong, but your willing to look for it, or
  3. You have no intention of fixing the root causes so that "... this never happens again".

In the hard physics of CX, this simple algebraic formula still applies:

Great Customer Experience = Expectation - (Perception x Emotion)

You've just set a very high bar on the expectation side, considering where you are coming from. I suggest you that stop and watch this inspirational new employee orientation video that Southwest Airlines put out in 2013 - and ask yourself if you fully understand the United Airline cultural foundations that you are setting these expectations against, as you navigate this potentially great company back to the friendly skies it once ruled....?