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United Airlines Customer Service Case Study

Introduction

The way companies treat their clients predetermines the perception of the brand by the general public. It is important because the contemporary penetration of social media publicity into everyday life makes every corporate action matter to society. Ultimately, the impact of customer service outcomes is seen in the profits of a company and its presence in the market overall. The quality of customer service is a costly and yet beneficial element of business functioning since it creates long-term value for the organization, trust from clients, and an overall positive reputation. This paper examines the case of United Airlines’ customer service crisis and aims to analyze and reflect on the relationship between customer service and buyer decision-making.

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General Public’s Perception of the Situations

The incidents with United Airlines’ failure to provide adequate customer service to its passengers were negatively perceived by the public. The number of views that the videos published online obtained throughout the time is very large. Indeed, the Sons of Maxwell’s song was viewed 20 million times, the footage of a man dragged from the plane was watched 4.9 million times, and the Ellen Show’s video was viewed 3.9 million times (Business Insider, 2017; Sonsofmaxwell, 2017a; TheEllenShow, 2017).

These numbers indicate bad publicity for the airline company, which ultimately resulted in reputation losses and monetary damage to the organization’s financial condition. Moreover, the official response of the CEO only deteriorated the situation since he said that “our employees followed established procedures for dealing with situations like this” (CNBC, 2017, 00:01:10 – 00:01:18). Ultimately, people’s outrage and resistance to United’s decisions to deny reimbursement for the broken guitar or the wrongful handling of the overbooking situation resulted in a rapid decline in bookings and buying, which had disruptive monetary losses for the company.

Reflection on the Popular Opinion about United’s Level of Customer Service

I agree with the popular opinion about the lack of good customer service culture at the organization. I think that the management handled the incidents was unethical because it breached the principles of human safety and well-being, which are fundamental rights of any individual. The company’s leadership prioritized profit over people by using such a common loss-minimization practice as flight overbooking. Indeed, in such a manner, airlines “manage their perishable seats; yet, it remains a challenge to balance the possible consequences of spoilage and denied boarding” (Ma et al., 2019, p. 192). Ultimately, poorly resolved issues with overbooking are costly in terms of reputational losses and stock prices decline. Indeed, as the incident’s aftermath showed, United Airlines’ stock prices and booking rates significantly and rapidly decreased.

It was because the company forgot that “their passengers are the people that create the value and make them profitable” (Sonsofmaxwell, 2017b, 00:02:02 – 00:02:06). Thus, the company failed to provide a decent level of customer service and bore logical outcomes.

The Effects of Self-Perception on Customers’ Decision to Choose United Airlines

When considering the likelihood of consumers buying from United after the analyzed incidents, self-perception plays a significant role in making decisions. According to research, “reflecting on and finding meaning in one’s choices may be an important step in linking behavior within-group identification and thus the self-concept in turn” (Dishon et al., 2017, p. 1). Indeed, since people who are linked to a group use social media activity in unity, their decision to refuse to use United will be viewed as a contribution to a bigger community.

However, there might be other individuals whose self-perception is aligned with compassion and forgiveness. Such individuals are likely to support the company by flying with it after the publication made by United on the change in customer experience. Indeed, the priority in the CEO’s discourse shifted from employees in the first announcement to customers in the later one. The CEO stated that “every customer deserves to be treated with the highest levels of service and the deepest sense of dignity and respect” (United Airlines, 2017, para. 5). In such a manner, the customers who decide to book flights with the company after their apology and change announcement might find the reflection of their self-perception in the organization’s longing to improve.

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Personal Purchasing Decision Description

As for me, I would not choose United Airlines for flying after the repeated failures to provide decent customer service. When choosing airlines, I am concerned with safety, cost, and quality of service, and I am particularly interested in being treated with dignity while I am on the plane. I perceive myself as a conscientious and determined individual who foresees the outcomes of all actions and decisions. If I chose to fly with United Airlines regardless of their wrongdoings, I would compromise my belief in the greater good, consistency of actions, and prioritizing people over money.

Conclusion

Conclusively, the analysis of the incident with flight overbooking at United Airlines has been a vivid illustration of the essential importance of quality customer service on branding and overall profit-making in the contemporary social-media-driven world. Social media creates an environment that highlights the importance of humane actions in the business world by criticizing unethical corporate decisions. The analyzed case demonstrates that investment in customer service is a beneficial contribution to a company’s longevity and long-term customer loyalty.

References

Business Insider. (2017). Video shows a passenger forcibly dragged off a United Airlines plane [Video]. YouTube. Web.

CNBC. (2017). Social media ‘tears apart United’s response to the removal of passenger | CNBC [Video]. YouTube. Web.

Dishon, N., Oldmeadow, J. A., Critchley, C., & Kaufman, J. (2017). The effect of trait self-awareness, self-reflection, and perceptions of choice meaningfulness on indicators of social identity within a decision-making context. Frontiers in Psychology, 8, 2034, 1-11. Web.

Ma, J., Tse, Y. K., Wang, X., & Zhang, M. (2019). Examining customer perception and behavior through social media research – An empirical study of the United Airlines overbooking crisis. Transportation Research Part E: Logistics and Transportation Review, 127, 192-205. Web.

Sonsofmaxwell. (2017a). United breaks guitars [Video]. YouTube. Web.

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Sonsofmaxwell. (2017b). United breaks guitars 4? – Dave Carroll responds to customer service incident on United Flight 3411 [Video]. YouTube. Web.

TheEllenShow. (2017). Ellen on United Airlines’ latest headlines [Video]. YouTube. Web.

United Airlines. (2017). United Airlines announces changes to improve customer experience [Press release]. Web.

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