It’s hard to estimate the damage done to United Airline’s brand from yesterday’s “incident” on one of its flights from Chicago. (I’m tempted to describe it in more Draconian terms but there’s more than enough social media for that.) First, there’s the proliferation of the multiple videos that have now been seen by tens of millions of Americans. Second, that the man so violently ejected was Chinese has created a whirlwind of social media among many millions in China. (Anyone for a flight from Beijing to LA? I hear there are seats available.) Finally, for today at least, is the tone-deaf response of United’s CEO, Oscar Munoz in which his use of the non-word, “re-accommodate” is getting its own share of Internet derisiveness. Wow! What a mess!
If you think this will all pass, consider this: Today’s drop in United stock has already cost the airline about $600 million. What a waste of brand equity! So, let’s assume Mr. Munoz calls you up and asks, “What should we do?” We can expect the usual mea culpas, compensations to people on that flight and perhaps some people will lose their jobs. But that won’t stem the long-term damage so here’s a proactive plan to retrieve that lost brand equity.
• How did hearing about or viewing the incident make you feel?
• How do you think an overbooked situation should be handled?
• What is the most frustrating thing about flying from purchasing tickets to arriving at your destination?
• How has this incident effected your willingness to recommend United to others?
Just those four questions – that’s all you need to ask. They’re all that anybody cares about so don’t muck it up with marketing speak or other meaningless questions.
They are open-ended questions and they should remain that way because people will see that you really are interested in their opinions. Yes, responses to open-ended questions can be difficult to analyze but don’t worry we have a solution (albeit self-serving) for you there.
Will this get United’s $600 million back? We believe it will and they’ll reap the bonus of creating a better airline at the same time.