Monday, April 28, 2008

Fight the power – Struggling in the Face of Major US Brands

Consider this experience that I had on a recent domestic US flight. You are sitting in your plane and your flight is delayed. You’re sitting in the plane, waiting through yet-another-delay for your flight to take off. Your flight crew is telling you that your experience is the result of understaffing, that airline senior management is tooling you, them, and the world, making fat bonuses while the little guys are struggling and starving -- if you are the airline, at the minimum, you have a branding problem.

On the whole, that might be one snapshot, one data point, one issue in one operating environment -- but my gut tells me that it is worse -- that this is a much broader problem. This isn’t just the problem of one place or one company complaining about an imbalance in salaries, service, or treatment (and everyone knows that the airlines may hold some sort of record for customer insensitivity), but it strikes me that this issue, this sense of inequity, is more pervasive, and that is extends beyond the front-line folks in the airline industry.

What happens to the folks who spent a lifetime in the industry, only to see all of the things -- the company, the pension, the traditional perception of meeting and exceeding customer service expectations -- cut out from under them by the economy, by bankruptcy, by cost-cutting, and by a management strategy that grinds them deeper into the space between the rock and the hard place? What's more, how do you "rebuild" a customer-focused brand in that environment?

No comments: