CULTURE AS COMPETITIVE WEAPON
We are watching an entire industry where company culture is showing itself as a mighty competitive edge or emblem of disaster. Airlines.
The recent brouhaha at United and an incredibly imbecilic response stems from the lack of a client centric culture. The video-aren’t phone cameras great?- of a ticketed passenger being drug out of a plane and receiving broken teeth and lacerations was the second step in a bizarre incident that was compounded by the poor judgment shown by the CEO’s thoughtless remarks. He ultimately found religion and then he sounded like a goopy encounter group.
Did I say second step? The first step seems to be a result of a “We’re United and You’re Not” mentality. It is also probably the case that the flight crew may not have felt they had the authority to remove the passenger so they called in a goon squad. Maybe both.
Not to be outdone, Spirit Airlines caused the scene of a passenger and security officer melee by suddenly canceling flights with little or no explanation. Flying is hard enough these days with full and over booked flights, interminably long security queues and the paranoia that comes from not remembering if your toothpaste will set off DEFCON 1. It feels like the airline industry tries to put 10 lbs of sugar in a 1 lb sack.
Crap behavior will hurt you in this day and age. United lost share price and market value and became the butt of Airplane! rip off videos. Spirit cemented its brand position of cheap doesn’t mean good(CDMG) and maybe contending for the most ridiculed airline ever even leap frogging over the historic leader Continental flights from Newark for top honors.
Southwest Airlines is the complete opposite. It has, since it’s founding, focused on a great passenger experience orchestrated by a staff of believers. I live in a Southwest hub and while I have had a few moments of horror, I always believe they are working as hard as they can to fix problems.
There aren’t better examples of the terrible results of poor cultures and the benefits of terrific ones than the airline business.