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To: CC: From: Date: Re:

Mr. Rob Bradford, CEO, United Airlines Dave Carroll Monique 2/4/2014 United Breaks Guitars

This memorandum details my professional assessment of the David Carroll case. A brief background section precedes a specific assessment of the initial communications response of Uniteds management team; and offers recommendations for improvement. I. BACKGROUND: THE PROBLEM Damage to Mr. Carrolls guitar occurred on March 31, 2008. He was not offered compensation by the airline until July 8, 2009. Please note that the offer of compensation was not extended until two days after Mr. Carrolls song, United Breaks Guitars went viral on social media. This is highly problematic to the extent that it is an unacceptable response time. Second, in response to Mr. Carols first communication about damage to his property in flight, he was admonished by a flight attendant, Dont talk to me. Talk to the lead agent outside. He did so and was again directed to address the issue with the ground crew in Omaha. Given a flight delay, he was unable to contact the ground crew. Instead, he saw a United agent who advised him to file a claim at the originating airport (Halifax). After several telephone calls from Mr. Carroll to the airline, he was told to contact the Chicago baggage office to arrange an inspection of the damaged guitar. Reasons of geography did not enable Mr. Carroll to visit the Chicago baggage office. He was then directed to the central baggage center in New York. Amidst myriad communication attempts, Carroll was routed twice to a call center in India. And in person, he was redirected by three front-line United employees: a flight attendant and two agents. In short, Mr. Carroll was given the runaround several times. II. CUSTOMER SERVICE AND EMPLOYEE ACCOUNTABILITY Providing your customers with superior customer service in the form of convenience and adequate direction and accessibility to resolve matters must be a top priority. The very nature of the airline industry mandates that customers are travelers, many of whom fly frequently, like Mr. Carroll. There is a likelihood that many, if not most, customers do not have the have the luxury of making phone call after phone call to resolve a matter, nonetheless travel from state to state or country to country for the inspection of damaged property: damage that was caused by United. Relative to accountability, this case illustrates that it is lacking among United employees, especially front-line team members who function as the public face of the airline. This absence of accountability was manifest in pushing responsibility from one individual, department or center to another. A remedy for a customer being directed and redirected is not to simply provide a telephone number. This represents poor communications.


February 4, 2014 In this case, however, Mr. Carroll did follow instructions. As section two illustrates, Mr. Carrolls concerns about his property were simply passed on too many times. The level of customer service and employee accountability highlighted in this case is unacceptable. However, the two senior vice presidents and the vice president who met with Mr. Carroll at Chicago OHare, gave him a tour of the airports baggage handling operations, and explained the challenges of shaping organizational culture was most likely effective. T hey should also be lauded for acknowledging that Mr. Carrolls claim should not have been denied. Notable is the fact that the three executives reported that customer service representatives were being retrained. This is, at minimum, a tacit acknowledgement that there was a problem with customer service. The fact that the American Customer Satisfaction Index ranked United last in airline rankings for 2009 lends credence to this notion. Moreover, the steady decline in customer satisfaction since 2003 should have triggered upper managements intervention, and prompted policy changes that might have averted this debacle. III. RECOMMENDATIONS AND SUUGESTIONS FOR POLICY CHANGES

The airline employs a relatively large workface and remains one of the largest international airlines; it is also geographically dispersed across continents. Each United location was treated as a separate entity. I strongly recommend that you consider centralizing customer service operations, specifically in the area of customer complaints to both assign and measure accountability, and enhance the customer experience. Given that your customers are travelers, with mostly busy lifestyles, it is vital that you have a customer service department that is always accessible for complaints or any other service-related concern. With the rapid changes in technology, company policy must be continuously evaluated and updated. Prevention is always more effective than cure. I suggest the following policy changes. include a timeline in which complaints should be resolved, as well as a grievance and, or appeal procedure should a customer be dissatisfied with the outcome; encourage the brand manager, customer service manager and public relations director to work seamlessly to avoid outcomes like Mr. Carrolls. A clearly defined company image should be consistent and reflected in each area; hire a communications director to communicate your companys value both internally and externally. Employees need to know that they are stakeholders in the business, and that they should never hand off a complaint. They should own any complaint, and follow through to ensure that the complaint has reached its final destination. The social media sphere requires a communication manager; hire a brand manager who will focus on and communicate your customers positiv e experiences with the airline; facing steep competition in recent years, you simply cannot afford to allow your brand to become tainted. A strong reputation is invaluable in this economic climate. Social media policy Employees should not be informally watching for mentions of United. This is not reliable, nor effective. Your brand manager and communications manager should have systems in place to address any mentions, and clear outlines of response techniques that speak to the brand and your customer service policy. Employee training In customer service, consistent policies must accompany compassion and the ability to evaluate fairness. I would specifically advocate retraining front-line employees in sensitivity and customer service, where politeness and a willingness to assist is sincere and achieves positive results (i.e. frequent flyers)

February 4, 2014

I appreciate your openness, and welcome your feedback.

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