Corporate culture impacts your bottom line. Fact.
If you were ever skeptical about this truth in the past, look at what's been unfolding with United Airlines as your proof.
Once passengers had already boarded the plane, United had to figure out a way to accommodate crew members who needed to travel on it.
When none of the other passengers volunteered to take a later flight, even after United offered incentives, the staff randomly selected passengers to "bump." When one gentleman refused, things got ugly.
How does something like this happen?
The truth is, the conditions that made this debacle possible have been simmering long before anyone showed up to work that day.
The disconnect between stated company values and what happens in practice
Corporate culture is the beliefs and behaviors that govern how a company and its employees interact with each other and the outside world.
Lots of times corporate executives will lock themselves in a room and draft a fancy document they feel embodies the culture they "say" they want. Then the beautiful words are distributed to every employee.
And in most cases, everyone goes back to business as usual. No bueno.
You have to live what you say you stand for. You have to commit to making your culture, and the values that support it a living, breathing, part of your company and everyone who works with you.
When done right, your business's culture drives the decision-making process of everyone who works with you. It is a guiding star, an internal compass.
When corporate culture isn't cultivated, a toxic one develops. Chaos and disasters ensue. And that's what happened with United.
Here is the mission United Airlines has listed on its website:
Every day, we help unite the world by connecting people to the moments that matter most. This shared purpose drives us to be the best airline for our employees, customers and everyone we serve.
And here are the core values the company says supports its mission:
We Fly Right
On the ground and in the air, we hold ourselves to the highest standards in safety and reliability. We earn trust by doing things the right way and delivering on our commitments every day.
We Fly Friendly
Warm and welcoming is who we are.
We Fly Together
As a united United, we respect every voice, communicate openly and honestly, make decisions with facts and empathy, and celebrate our journey together.
We Fly Above & Beyond
With an ambition to win, a commitment to excellence, and a passion for staying a step ahead, we are unmatched in our drive to be the best.
But none of the actions associated with this latest incident support these values.
Asking paying passengers to give up their seat and alter their travel plans to accommodate company employees doesn't foster trust or a commitment to excellence.
Choosing passengers to "reaccomodate" at random doesn't demonstrate empathy in any way.
Forcibly removing a passenger and then dragging him down the aisle is the opposite of being warm and welcoming, and shows disregard for his safety.
The video was a visual representation of what can go wrong when your corporate culture is just lip service.
Reputations are damaged.
Customer loyalty is destroyed.
Money is lost.
How to create a culture that earns customer loyalty
Take a lesson from United's latest customer experience failure as a means to create positive change in your company. Here are four steps to help you bring the culture and values you want your company to embody to life.
1. Decide on the experience you want your customers to have every time they interact with you.
2. Design every part of your customer journey to deliver on that experience.
3. Train and empower your staff to deliver on your service standards.
4. Reward your team for embodying the standards that support your vision for how you treat your customers.
Corporate culture is more than words on a page. It is the full embodiment of how you execute on the experience you want to deliver to your customers.
It doesn't have by chance. It must be declared. It must be nurtured. It must be a priority.