How United Airlines Redeemed Themselves and Why Little Things Make a Big Impact in Marketing

18ixqc2cvszsqjpgThese days, everybody hates air travel.

 The chaos of check-in and baggage drop-off.

The anxiety and mad crush and indignity of security check and the horror of dealing with the TSA.

The cattle call of plane boarding – waiting through all the preferred traveler designations: “diamond” members, “sapphire” members, “pewter” members (just kidding). And then all the zones: 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — ugh! What happened to just getting on the plane and getting your keester in a seat?

And holiday travel? Forget it! 10x WORSE.

But this year was different…

On the face of it, the circumstances seemed worse: Wifey, Junior and I were traveling cross-country…on a 6am flight. The doomed futility of such an affair seemed unavoidable.

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Kat Williams Look-alike Alleviates Our Check-In Panic and Saves the Day

The fam and I arose at 4am in order to make it to the airport by 5am. Due to a late cab, however, we arrived at 5:15Am and being that it was December 22nd, check-in was mobbed. To make matters worse, there was problem with our bags – it seems our advanced checked bag purchase didn’t go through. We couldn’t figure out how to recheck our bags, the minutes were ticking away, and PA kept broadcasting: “you’re required to check-in 45 minutes prior to departure”

Panic began to set in. Wifey, silently seething, shook her head in contempt at obvious incompetence when it comes to all things travel related (which is usually her domain). Junior writhed in his stroller, quickly approaching the critical mass that proceeds the full attention deficit detonation 3yr olds are prone to. But then, as all was nearly lost, a Kat Williams look-alike United agent (you know, the tall rail thin black comedian, with high voice and James Brown Coif ) noticed our distress, and calmly and efficiently ushered us through the baggage check process. And reassured us in a soft, soothing voice: “You’re fine. If it was too late, the system wouldn’t let check.”

We cleared security with ease (thanks to being route, by United through TSA pre-check security), and arrived at our gate just in time for our boarding call.

Sharpton, Al

Al Sharpton Look-alike Aids Lost (In Translation) Traveler in Chicago

Waiting at the gate for our connecting flight in Chicago, an elderly Woman, who happened to be from Mexico and didn’t a word of English gravitate to us. My wifey happens to speak a little Spanish (un poquito). Coincidence or serendipity? Who knows, but regardless, we reassured her she was in the right place.

But the women’s ordeal had not reached its end The plane turned out to be one of those tiny jets and the gate agent insisted everyone check roller bag. Once on board, the women, not understanding what was happening with her bag was again in a panic.

I tried to intercede on her behalf with the plane’s sole flight attendant, a pleasant, soft-voiced Al Sharpton look-alike (short, round and similarly coiffed – what’s up with all the James Brown hair aficionados at United?). As good fortune (or whatever) would have it, this fine gentleman spoke fluent Spanish (like a native). He reeled off a paragraph en Espanola, and her entire body heaved in relief.

United Brakes Guitars (But They’re Getting Better)

United made headlines when a YouTube video for the song United Breaks Guitars went viral (which, unfortunately for the airline, was followed by a bestselling book and genuine community movement.)

Personal experience… Wifey and I haven’t flown United for over a decade because of horrible trip rife with inattentive service, poor communication, and several lost bags (ugh, it was a NIGHTMARE!).

Judging United based on this trip, however, customer service has become a much great priority. And thanks to the actions of two attentive rank-and-file employees, we’d definitely consider traveling on United again (or at least some time sooner than 10 years from now).

Applying This to Your Business

So how can you put this strategy to work in marketing your small business?

Easy – or at least the answer is easy, however the practice may not be: By listening to your clients and customers and reacting accordingly. Not just in the moment (which is of course important), but also by adjusting your policies and improving your service to satisfy customers in the long term.

United needed more attentive customer service – and they’re improving it. A lesson every business can benefit from.

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