As United Airlines seeks to raise its Net Promoter score, pilots have been tasked with communicating more clearly and focusing on the customer experience.
United Airlines To Pilots: Focus On Customer Experience
In a memo to pilots shared with Live and Let’s Fly, United asks pilots to continually engage and turn “lemons into lemonade” though frequent communication:
While safety will always be at the forefront of everything we do at United, I want to also ask for your focus on another important area – the customer experience. Your care and engagement when things don’t go as planned has a tremendous impact on our customers’ overall journey. Many of the compliments they share with us have a common theme – their negative experience turned into a positive one entirely because of a pilot who communicated and connected with them. There are many examples of this…and each is a reminder that we have a unique opportunity to make a difference for every customer, every flight, every day, regardless of any challenges we may face.
Ask yourself this: what upsets you most during a delay? Is it the delay itself or the lack of communication? Forget ordering pizza for the plane, just think how much it helps when a captain walks out of the flight deck, picks up the microphone, and addresses the cabin with an empathic update.
At least for me, the anger dissipates…even if it means a missed connection or severely delayed arrival.
What heartened me is that the memo was not just United preaching to its pilots, but fellow pilots speaking to one another on how to better communicate. For example, one pilot suggested:
- Add a warm welcome from the crew
- speak more slowly
- try to limit aviation acronyms
- add in something cool about the flight or aircraft
- mix in a little levity
- share points of interest
- invite kids to the flight deck post-flight
- Be your genuine and authentic
He further added two challenges:
- Challenge yourself to create a new but meaningful customer engagement experience that you will
deliver to one or two passengers every flight, time permitting.
- Make a thoughtful and honest PA in front of customers during IRROPS and acknowledge folks
on special days (veterans on Memorial Day, moms on Mother’s Day, etc.)
Pilots have also been invited to collaborate amongst each other on how to improve customer service. Again, this is pilots speaking to pilots, not management making demands.
And this, folks, is how the culture of an airline is transformed.
I look back on my 17 years of flying United (well over one million miles) and I still have the notes from pilots, like Captain Denny Flanagan or Joe Yanacek. I cannot emphasize how much those personal interactions with pilots have made me loyal to United over the years (and consequently spent tens of thousands of dollars personally and directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in spending on United).
It really makes me smile to see that pilots at United are thinking so carefully about customer service. As the summer travel season is now upon us and planes are full again, now is the time we’ll see if those words are put into action.
Have you been surprised and delighted recently by a United Airlines pilot?
image: United Airlines