Calling United’s fiasco, a flub is an extreme understatement. For the airline, this is a public relations multiple engine failure, a public image crash and burn.
The bare facts: United personnel physically removed a Chinese passenger from an overbooked Chicago-to-Louisville flight, to make room for United employees who needed to be on the flight. The airline asked for volunteers to disembark, but got no takers. United then began what it calls “an involuntary de-boarding situation.” Four passengers were chosen at random.
One passenger refused, saying he was a physician and needed to see patients. Local law enforcement was called in to physically remove the passenger. The removal was recorded and has gone viral, getting one million views on Chinese social media and a firestorm of criticism for the airline in China and in the United States, including calls for a boycott of the carrier. Even the stock market reacted with United’s market value falling more than $250 million in one day.
What does this international incident involving United and China – a market where the airline wants to make inroads – have to do with community banking? And what can banks learn from this.
I was talking to a friend yesterday about all this. As a couple of old-school guys, we often muse about long-lasting ideas, the timeless truths that we try to offer up in this blog. My buddy is a storyteller – a long-winded storyteller—but as usual, he had a story that applies to United’s turbulent troubles.
“When I was small, I had a Sunday school teacher named Mrs. Murphy,” he said. “She’d taught young children for generations at the tiny church where my family worshipped for decades. In fact, she taught my father.”
Mrs. Murphy was a widow, a short, stout woman with a crown of silver hair that complimented the blue dress she wore every Sunday. And every Sunday, she wore black orthopedic shoes. A stroke had hindered her speech a bit. But into her eighties, Mrs. Murphy taught the long-lasting ideas she lived by, most notably the Golden Rule.
Even if you’ve never darkened the door of a church or synagogue, you know the rule. Simply put: Treat others as you would want to be treated. Nobody, not even United’s CEO I’d guess, would want to be forcibly removed from a flight.
Granted, there’s probably more to the story that we don’t know. But there are two lessons here that community bankers – from the drive-thru window to the teller cage to the executive board room – need to keep at the front of their hearts and minds.
First, we live in a social media world, where every Smartphone has a camera and every interaction has the potential to be filmed, uploaded to social media for all the world to see. And once it’s in the cyber sphere, it’s tough to take it down.
But more importantly, we need to remember Mrs. Murphy’s lesson she shared with generations, a lesson as old as the Scriptures. Treat others as we would wish to be.
As a simple, rock-solid foundation for customer service, a base as solid as Mrs. Murphy’s black Sunday shoes, the Golden Rule is a winning place to start.
And while it’s unlikely that a community bank will have a United-style PR crisis, there is still a lesson to be learned, straight from Mrs. Murphy’s heart.
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