Redefining the Customer Experience
In the face of intensifying competition and diminished differentiation among both domestic network carriers and low cost carriers, United wanted to ensure that it didn’t regress towards a commoditized product for all customer segments. United realized that it needed to develop a customer-centric future strategy and galvanize its organization to improve the customer experience for its most valued customers.
United undertook a marketing-led effort that involved stakeholders from key functions throughout the company to re-define the end-to-end customer experience and develop its own, unique “service philosophy.” United was to become: “A service company committed to delivering travel experiences that make customers feel respected, relaxed, and rewarded.”
The team conducted internal ideation sessions to identify potential “big ideas” that would help United deliver on the new strategy. The company analyzed segment behaviors, purchase drivers, and funnel economics. To build a new customer experience platform and understand the potential economic impact on high-value customer segments, United developed a comprehensive list of experiential ideas. These were prioritized, evaluated, and selected to enhance the customer experience — leading to a wide variety of employee engagement initiatives, development of several signature elements, and several process improvement initiatives at key customer touchpoints (e.g. premium lobby, premium boarding, etc.).
Enhancements to the customer experience were tested and implemented, including premium lobby and boarding for frequent fliers and new signature elements and improved seats for First Class and Business Class International passengers. As of Q3 2007, United had surpassed American in terms of percentage of Super Elites flying an airline most often, after lagging behind for several years. It also surpassed American in customer experience ratings beginning in 2008. This initiative also included new internal training and corporate-wide business education, service training for customer-facing employees, and new leadership competencies.
Additional changes and improvements have been developed and launched, including the High Touch lobby for Global Services members at Chicago O’Hare International Airport, and in-market testing of online concierges (non-flight attendants) to assist customers with any issues.