Customer Experience Featured Article

How United's Voice of the Customer Program Lets the Company Soar

December 22, 2014

With the last few days before Christmas closing in, and Hanukkah already in full swing, there are plenty of people out there making travel plans, assuming said travel plans aren't already in play. Suitcases packed, boarding passes checked, and preparations made to run the gauntlet of airports ahead of long trips on airlines to get back to home, hearth, and happy holidays, hopefully. But at least one airline will be paying a little closer attention to its customers, thanks to a program from United called Voice of the Customer, a program which has already had an impact on the way United does business.

The Voice of the Customer program, at last report, already had an impact on one key piece of United business, specifically the decision to focus the frequent-flier program on ticket price rather than on total distance flown. Though that change doesn't take effect until March 1, 2015, it illustrates just how close of attention United is paying to the output of its Voice of the Customer operations. There is actually quite a bit of output from this operation as well, reports from the managing director of customer experience and corporate strategy for United, Sue Sabow, note that the company daily compiles survey results to create an overall customer satisfaction score, and uses that daily score along with a monthly aggregate to determine where the company is in terms of overall customer satisfaction, and in attempting to identify long-term trends that may help or hinder the company going forward.

Indeed, Sabow's remarks reflected a United that was focused on customer satisfaction to a great degree, noting that United has over 85,000 employees worldwide, but with the Voice of the Customer program, all of these could be focused appropriately on issues of customer satisfaction. Sabow noted “While not every single person interacts with or directly influences a customer’s experience, we have a shared focus across the company to meet or exceed our customers’ expectations, whether it’s on the ground, in the air, or anywhere in between. We strive to ensure that the transition from one phase to the next in the customer journey is as seamless as possible.”

There are plenty of reasons to be put off with air travel; the multi-stage security gauntlet, the secrecy, the “no-fly” lists, the expense that seems to be growing even as gas prices drop through the floor...but it's good to know that at least one airline on at least one point is actually realizing that the money in the company's accounts didn't get there by magic. That's a development worth following, especially if United can continue on this course of taking customer feedback this seriously. A clear focus on the customer experience might be a big help, particularly for an airline with so many competitors and so many ways to find out just what those competitors are charging for a flight to the same place. Throw in growing moves to take customer service issues to platforms like Facebook (News - Alert), Twitter and YouTube and the need to pay attention to those customers becomes extremely vital.

Naturally, even a focus on the customer experience can't fix every problem, and even a company like United that's so clearly focused on customer opinion can't cover all the avenues. But a company that has customers seldom regrets paying attention to what those customers want, and the Voice of the Customer program is likely to continue generating dividends for United now and in the future.

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