Customer Experience Humor: Someone Had To Write About This

I am boarding a United flight to Los Angeles. Yesterday I watched the video of three airport security people pulling Dr. David Dao from his United flight—the world’s absolutely worst customer experience since god invented YouTube. More people have watched the video of Dr. Dao being drawn and quartered than the sum total all of the people who have ever flown on United.

Dr. Dao is now being treated by other doctors. United’s CEO being treated at a therapy center for former CEOs.  The CEO called the event ‘truly horrific.’  He won’t learn the meaning of the word ‘horrific’ until he sees how many people have viewed the video.  had there been no video of the mishap, United’s CEO would not have ever learned of the event.

United’s tagline used to be “We love to fly and it shows.” United’s new tagline e is “When we tell you to give up your seat we really mean it—‘move your bloomin’ arse’. (My Fair Lady).” (All of the punctuation in this paragraph probably wouldn’t pass muster with a third grade teacher. But I don’t write with the goal of teaching punctuation, and you don’t read my rants with the goal of learning punctuation. So, net-net, we’re good to go.)

Having watched the video of Dr. Dao, I wonder if it will be my turn today to make a video of me being dragged kicking and screaming from my United flight. Perhaps it’s my cynical nature, but I actually relish moments like these.

My understanding of the United debacle is as follows. Suppose that United, or any airline for that matter—they are equally bad, has a plane with 200 seats. The airline sells 210 tickets for the flight expecting that ten or more people wont show. Some MBA probably figured out that five percent of people don’t show up for any given flight. However, when the MBA is wrong, there is a problem.

And here’s the key point; it’s not the airline’s problem; it’s the passengers’ problem. Ten people—and here’s the part I do not understand—people who are already seated, people who got to the gate on time, have to leave to make room for the other ten people who arrived late.

MBA rule 101—first come first served—does not apply to airlines. At United, it does not even apply for doctors. Apparently, people without seats are more important than the people who have seats—Airline Customer Experience Training, Session 3, day 2. Seated passengers must be inconvenienced so that the people without seats won’t be.

This disaster did not happen by accident.  The people who assaulted the doctor followed a procedure.  A formal procedure.  A procedure defined and approved by people who still work for United.  Management.  People were paid to create that policy.  You and I on our worst days could not dream up something this onerous.  Page 142, subparagraph 2:

  • Wait until all of the passengers are seated
  • Search the manifest to see if any of the passengers is a physician
  • Upon finding a physician, contact airport security and drag the doctor from the plane
  • If the doctor has already been given a bag of stale peanuts, make sure to retrieve the peanuts and return them to the galley–since the doctor will not be on the flight he is not entitled to the peanuts

Airlines work hard to create an abysmal customer experience. Customer experience this bad doesn’t happen by accident. It requires years of dedication by executives who have exceeded the Peter Principle so many times that Peter’s dog was a puppy when the executives started to believe their own PR. Airlines are looking up at the bottom of the customer experience threshold and there is no light in the tunnel.

The best thing about a no good, very bad, awful experience is that many of those experiences can live on in perpetuity via YouTube.

Unfortunately, bad healthcare experiences never see the light of day. They never become viral. You simply own it. If your attempt to contact your provider or payer by phone is disastrous, you cannot video your call. If you get to their website and your needs are not met, you cannot video that experience.

And that is a the reason that healthcare customer care is such a disaster. The payers and providers never learn how bad their customer service is. They just keep right on doing what they’ve always done.

The only good news is that “Your call may be recorded for quality purposes.”

Well, I am still on the plane and I have lived to fight another day. 🙂

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