Chapter 4 Extra Reading

“To a United Pilot, The Friendly Skies Are a Point of Pride”
Wall Street Journal, August 28th, 2007. 

I grew up hearing that “the customer is always right”.   Having worked in many customer facing jobs, I can tell you that the customer is NOT always right, but they are always the customer.  It seems that a good portion of American businesses no longer  adhere to the ethic of excellent customer service.  I mean you hear the terms “value add”, “post sales support” and other nonsense thrown around in business meetings or advertising brochures, but they quite often boil down to nothing more than marketing speak to get salesmen and audience.  I’m not suggesting that selling is bad, but when you use customer service as a differentiator, whether or not you do truly excel, the message gets lost in the over-marketing trash heap of today’s advertising.  It used to be that a company’s customer service would speak for itself, but now it’s either a differentiator or a punch line.  For this reason I find the truly customer-focused actions of Capt. Denny Flanagan of United Airlines exceptional.

As the Wall Street Journal article mentions, Capt. Flanagan went way out of his way to make flying a fun experience for his passengers.  Imagine that, fun flying!!  Apparently Capt. Flanagan has adopted several tricks to make the experience of flying with United something more than a bus trip at 30,000 feet.  He takes pictures of people’s pets when brought aboard to comfort the customer.  Additionally he calls the parents of unaccompanied children to reassure them that the children are safe and sound aboard his plane.  He even raffles off bottles of wine, keeps passengers updated, and goes out of his way to make sure that all are at ease during the flight.  If you’ve ever flown with United, you KNOW this isn’t the norm. 

So, in the spirit of positive reinforcement, we salute you Capt. Denny Flanagan.  Thanks for showing us what real customer service looks like.  It’s been a while since we’ve seen it.  Keep up the good work!!!

 “Rules of Engagement”
The Journal Report, October 1st, 2007.

One of the few buzzwords we actually have affinity for is “employee engagement”; as long as companies don’t just use it as a buzzword, but have a real desire to engage their employees.  The idea is to increase workplace quality such that the employee is freed from some of their personal life stress.  As the article points out, until recently many companies cared little for the personal lives of their employees, expecting them to be kept separate from their professional lives.  Sort of a professional dissociative identity thing?  Horrible joke I know, but expecting employees to focus 100% on their jobs with havoc at home is pretty naive. 

When employee engagement first started with Xerox and later with Google, before there was a buzzword for it, companies began to realize the rewards of treating employees as valued members of a team, rather than “human assets”.  As the article pointed out, change of this nature in the workplace leads to increased profits for the company.  When people are free to deal with their personal lives they tend to more than make up for it in their professional lives.  They work harder, work smarter, and treat the customers better. The study by Towers Perrin of 41 employers found that companies that consistently engage their employees realized a 3.74% increase in operating profit over 3 years, while companies that did so poorly saw a 2% decline.  There are more studies in the article which all said the same thing.  Treating your employees as valued members versus the old style production line model, leads to increased profits and better workforce attitudes. 

As quoted from the article, “A growing body of research is finally proving what advocates of workplace quality have known for decades: that the human beings who execute the goals of business are more than just cogs in a wheel.  Truly engaging them can have an almost magical effect on the bottom line”.  It’s an effect you can truly take to the bank.


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