​Tuesday Trends: Building strong relationships

18 Apr 2017 - News

​Tuesday Trends: Building strong relationships

In a week that was ghastly for United Airlines, we were reminded once again of the close intersect between ethics and business. Many people perceive business to be a cut-throat environment where ethics are meaningless. Yet the direct correlation between the drop in share prices and flight sales for United Airlines after this incident, shows a different story. Today we examine a couple of lessons we learned from the United Airlines incident.

Consumer Welfare

In what can only be described as a royal stuff up on United Airlines’ behalf, after learning they had overbooked flights and required 4 seats for their staff, they forced passenger Dr David Dao to leave the plane. This resulted in Dr Dao receiving extensive injuries and requiring hospitalisation. With video footage of this incident going viral on social media, there was global outrage at the airlines’ actions. The maltreatment of a paying customer breached what many perceive to be a sacred bond between a supplier of services and products and the customer – you must never bite the hand that feeds you. What is apparent from these actions is the lack of a customer-centric culture.

Leadership Response

The lack of a customer-centric culture was made even more obvious by the response from United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz days after the incident. In a letter to staff he called Dr Dao “belligerent” and “disruptive” effectively blaming Dr Dao himself for his maltreatment. He said that he stood by his staff. As a leader, it is good for your team to know that you support them. However, this logic is flawed when the purpose of your service is forgotten. Beyond providing a service or product, the ‘secret spice’ is created in the relationships forged and loyal following of customers.


Perhaps in direct response to a decrease in share value and the negative press surrounding the brand, CEO Oscar Munoz issued a statement apologising for their treatment of the Dr Dao. He stated that the company would be undergoing changes which would review the way that customers in this situation were treated. As noted in a letter from the Board to staff, what is required is an overhaul of the company’s culture.[1]

The key lessons from this debacle lies in the strength of building strong customer relationships where a company strives to achieve customer happiness and satisfaction, within ethical boundaries. United Airlines has shown what a lack of nurturing this trait can do and the headache it can cause in the long run.

Are you taking good care of your relationships?

*Pacific Business Trust focuses on building good relationships between government stakeholders and private enterprises for the benefit of our Pacific community creating sustainable enterprises. Chat to us today if you have a great idea or are looking at building a global sustainable enterprise*

[1] http://liveandletsfly.boardingarea.com/2017/04/15/united-board-directors-ua3411-statement/