Over the last few days, I’ve started to see United Airlines TV ads promoting wireless Internet connections on their flights.

I flew on United a few days before I starting seeing these ads. The night before that flight I went on their website to see if my flight would have wifi, since I wanted to schedule some work that required a connection. I couldn’t find the information, so I called reservations, and the agent couldn’t tell me. The next day I asked the gate agent if the flight, which he was working at that very moment, would have wifi, and he had no idea. His response made me think this was a question he never thought he’d have to answer. Yet, the ads launched the same week.

Your employees are every bit as important to your marketing as your advertising. Duh.

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen United miss the mark on empowering their employees with appropriate customer communications to match their marketing communications. At some point during United’s bankruptcy between late 2002 and early 2006, there was a rumor circulating among United customers that they would lose their Mileage Plus miles due to United’s financial troubles. I asked some flight attendants about this on a flight. They said they did not now the answer, and then they started complaining about their company told me that I’d probably lose the miles, because I shouldn’t trust United. When I got off the flight in San Francisco, less than an hour later, there was a sign right outside the jetway that said something like “Don’t worry. You won’t lose your Mileage Plus miles.”

Don’t be like United. Recognize that customers see every interaction with your company as a chance to learn about you. And, your employees are usually much more effective communicators of your brand story than your expensive marketing communications.




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