Club Insider

Balancing Customer Service, Customer Loyalty & Business Profit Optimization

"Unused Resources to Create Wow & Build Loyalty"

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Bill McBrideBill McBride

A United Airlines Service Example

I recently presented at the FitLife 2018 Conference in Bend, Oregon. It is an amazing conference with participants from throughout the Pacific Northwest. These are undoubtedly some of the best operators in the country. They have true values and a genuine authenticity. They care about doing it the right way and give their members the benefit of the doubt as their members are truly their friends and neighbors. We should all follow FitLife's example on authenticity. These club operators are the real deal, and I've seen a lot of clubs and operators over the years. In this article, I want to share my experience from the airline trip back from Bend, Oregon to Phoenix, Arizona.

I arrived at the airport well in advance of my flight with some other friends and colleagues leaving the FitLife conference. I discovered my Alaska Airlines flight was delayed, and this was going to cause me to miss my connection, thereby not allowing me to get home that night. Alaska Airlines graciously re-booked me on a United Flight that would allow me to make my connection, and eventually, get me home to my kids in Arizona that night. I got out of Bend, but then, my connection with United was also delayed until very late into the night/early morning. Much to my surprise, United upgraded me to First Class (granted First Class on this particular flight amounts to a few more inches in seat room and more proximity towards the front of the aircraft), but I was humbly impressed and appreciative.

What are you doing to create WOW and build loyalty?What are you doing to create WOW and build loyalty?

After all passengers had boarded, I noticed a full empty row of "first class seats" across the aisle. I had industry friends on the flight from the conference, so I asked a flight attendant if a friend (a good guy) could come up to the first class section and sit next to me to chat. She said "NO, I cannot upgrade anyone to first class in flight, but you can go back and sit with him if you'd like..." So, as a Silver Premiere United Passenger with over 224,000 miles, I can go back and sit in economy to be with my friend, but my friend cannot come up to "first class" on a very small jet and sit in an empty seat... I was baffled by the absurdity of taking care of a loyal customer and winning favor of a less frequent passenger to protect the potential for abuse that a passenger might not buy first class in hopes of sneaking into first class with an employee as a willing co-conspirator in this dastardly deed.

I contemplated this absurdly from every angle and tried to come up with all the reasons the executives at United might have thought of when making this decision to limit their flight attendants from using good judgment.

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