While on vacation, you don’t earn money… you spend them. Not my brother-in-law—he finds ways to earn a few bucks. He uses his smartphone and apps like Gigwalk. While in Las Vegas days before the New Year, he surveyed bars and restaurants in the city. He wasn’t bar-hopping or something, he was taking 360 degree pictures of restaurants’ interiors and sending them to Bing. It was a gig he acquired through Gigwalk. The rate for this micro-task is around $5 per picture. Think about this, if 50 of those photos he submitted were accepted, he earned $250. He also does work for big companies that like to employ a “mobile workforce” to check on prices and placement of their products in major supermarkets. He interviews shoppers to conduct designed surveys. The rate for this type of gig is about $10 to $ 20 each. Not bad, isn’t it? Pepsi is using crowdsourcing to promote their sponsorship of the Super Bowl halftime show. They have a contest where fans can submit their personal photos in the hopes that it will be featured in the introduction video. They are sending different instructions per day to fans for diverse types of pictures. I can’t wait to see the outcome of that in the Super Bowl halftime.
What is Crowdsourcing?
This is what crowdsourcing is about—collecting contributions from many individuals to achieve a goal—thus doing more with fewer resources possible. Just imagine if Bing would want to photograph interiors of full service restaurants in the United States and would be willing to employ full time workers to do so. How many workers and for how long? Bing has to consider that there are over 200,000 full service restaurants. Bing would need to contract hundreds of employees for many months to complete this and this would turn out to be a very expensive undertaking.
When you think of a crowd, you think of an unruly bunch of people gathered in a disorganized way. Traditional crowd manipulation is the intentional use of techniques to engage, control, and influence the crowd in order to direct its behavior to accomplish something. Many businesses and politicians have successfully employed that technique in the past. Crowdsourcing differs from traditional crowd manipulation by taking the significance of geographical proximities away from the equation. Nowadays, you can organize individuals from different locations to do what you want using technology. The development of mobile technology in both the application side and for devices (Smartphone) is helping push crowdsourcing to be more commonplace.
Many of us use crowdsourcing without thinking about it. I bet you have used products that came out of crowdsourcing or have participated in crowdsourcing in some way without even realizing it. If you are using Wikipedia, then you are using one example of a service that is a product of the collaborative work of a crowd—or to use a better term, of volunteers. Wikipedia has 24 million articles that were written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site, and it has about 100,000 active volunteers that contribute in this process. This is a classic crowdsourcing success story. If you have ever rented an apartment and used comments from previous tenants online to help you decide which complex to take; if you have made a purchase in Amazon.com and read customer reviews to help you decide which product to buy; or if you have used comments on TripAdvisor.com to plan a vacation, then you have taken advantage of crowdsourcing.
Crowdsourcing for Social Change
What can you do to contribute to changing the world? Of course, you can donate money to a good cause but beyond that, there are relatively new ways for individuals to shape social change through crowdsourcing. Prominent blogger Alexey Navalny’s site, RosPil.net, makes the most of crowdsourcing by using it as a mechanism to expose corruption in Russia. RosPil uses crowdsourcing to ask anonymous volunteers to report government anomalies in the form of tenders that are designed to generate kickbacks. From a recent HRB article, “Rospil claims, as of December 2011, to have prevented the granting of dubious contracts worth US$1.3 billion.
Married couple Swati and Ramesh Ramanathan set up the website iPaidaBribe.com in India as a unique initiative to fight corruption. They ask anonymous users to disclose the nature, amount, and recipients of bribes. The initiative provides statistics like heat maps and areas of government who have rampant corruption practices.
You don’t even need a specialized website to run crowdsourcing. Many of these initiatives happen in the internet seamlessly through netizens’ initiatives in Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and other social media websites.
Smartphones are making crowdsourcing even more sophisticated. Smartphone use has been climbing steadily upward in the last couple of years. The simple capability of a smartphone to take a photo with location and time stamping is a major capability that is used to capture information easily. As the use of smartphones continue to increase, I foresee a proliferation in simple crowdsourcing initiatives – be it for business, social change or other purpose.
Photo courtesy of James Cridland.
At the dinner table, my wife and I were talking about the piece she just published in her blog, The Red Sticks. She spoke about how she manages her time while raising our twin boys. You can read her whole post here — Dividing Time.
In summary, she mentions five important things to remember:
1. It is okay not to be able to do everything.
3. Don’t forget me time.
4. Use your kid’s downtime to your advantage.
5. Enjoy your kids.
Although the post was written with parents — particularly Moms — in mind, these lessons can be applied to one’s personal and professional life. No wonder she is doing a great job with the boys and on top of this, she is still able to do her personal stuff (like writing).
We discussed how her tips in managing her time at home can apply in business and this is what we came up with:
- It’s okay not to be able to do everything. This is true in business as well. You can’t possibly do everything. If you insist on trying, then most likely you will just get frustrated and miss more important tasks and goals.
- Prioritize. This is about making the best use of your limited time and resources when demands are seemingly limitless. Your day only has a limited number of hours. This is the same for your week, your month, your year, etc. There is a maximum number of things that you can possibly do (with good quality) in a period of time— therefore, you need to prioritize.
- Don’t forget me time. ”Me time” at work is the time you dedicate to developing yourself. Identify areas of improvement in your skills and capabilities. Talk to your boss and your peers to get feedback and continue to improve yourself. Part of accountability is continuous self-improvement. Not only do you look at what you’re already good at but also what else you can improve on.
- Use your downtime to your advantage. Obviously, there are times at work when things are toxic — everything needs to be done right away and deadlines overlap. However, there are also down times. There are two ways you can make use of your office down times. First, you can schedule your vacation at this time and make sure you maximize the number of days you go on leave. The other way is is through extracurricular activities in at work such as organizing a community outreach and writing in the newsletter. If there are opportunities for you to use or exhibit your talents, then volunteer.
- Enjoy your work. Look forward to it everyday and think of having fun. Try not to see work as work but as an opportunity to learn something or mentor someone. You will see how it will impact your productivity!
So who says managers can’t learn from Moms? This post is a perfect example. After all, our Moms are probably our first “managers”.
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles.
We were in the supermarket today and my wife asked me to get a bottle of laundry detergent. She did not specify the brand, so without “thinking”, I picked up the one that I usually buy— Woolite. This reminded me of a book I was just reading.
Why I Picked Woolite?
The other night, I read that “brand choice (is a) predominantly subconscious, memory-based process that follows a fixed algorithm.” The ideas in the book challenged me to rationalize my selection process a bit – something I usually don’t do. I recognized that my selection of Woolite was not really based on a conscious effort, i.e. getting more facts about the product, reading the specifications, thinking about our past experiences with the product and comparing it with other brands in the store. The truth is, Woolite simply came to mind as the preferred option and I chose it. Any conscious deliberation process which could have vetoed this choice came later.
Now that I think about it, there are two simple reasons why I chose Woolite over the others. First of all, the brand name itself – Woolite – suggests that the product is not harsh and is sensitive to clothes. These are features of a laundry detergent that I value. Secondly, the white packaging seems to elicit the same meaning. So I really wasn’t buying Woolite because of its specifications. I was buying it due to a perception I had from its name and packaging. It was a subconscious choice. A choice I have been making for a couple of years now!
Do You Know Why You Buy Apple Products?
Once, a friend of mine posted a question on Facebook – asking about the difference between an iPhone, iPod, iPad and the about-to-be-launched iPad Mini. One of his friends answered that it was the size – arguing that most of these products’ functions are very similar. In fact, most of the apps you use across different Apple devices are the same.
True isn’t it?
So why do so many of us own an arsenal of all those gadgets, if they really mostly do the same things? Think about the last time you bought an Apple product. Do you know why you selected this brand versus others in the market?
Branding with Brains
The book I mentioned earlier, entitled “Branding with Brains” by Tjaco Walvis, offers a good explanation. “You can rationalize with hindsight, but the fact is our brains make these decisions without really thinking about it,” wrote Walvis. “This is why successful brands appeal to customers on the basis of emotional association, images and experiences rather than just on the back of their product specification.” As one Harley-Davidson executive describes in this book’s convention-shattering case studies, “We don’t sell motorbikes. What we sell is the ability for a 43-year old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through a small town and have people be afraid of him.”
Buy and read the book, you might just find yourself rationalizing your buying behavior just like me!
Photo courtesy of Cogs and Gears
I have always been fascinated about how developed countries excel in the Olympics. In the recently concluded summer games in London, 6 countries from G8 were in the top ten of the medal standings. Do countries’ economies have anything to do with how their athletes fair in games? Absolutely! How?
Allow me to use some project management concepts to explain.
Portfolio Management – Strategy in Sports and Funding
Obviously, developed countries have more resources, i.e. money, to invest in sports development and therefore, more and better sports programs translate to more chances of success. The U.S. Olympic Committee shelled out close to $250 million in 2008 to help American athletes win 110 medals in Beijing. That is a huge investment in a national sports program (and this excludes funding coming from corporate sponsorship for more popular teams). The portfolio managers — or I should say Olympic committee leaders — determine goals, value indicators and programs that can help fulfill its overall sports goal. The sports’ governing body is responsible for allocating the investment into programs that has the potential for more success. They monitor aggregate performance, track spending and measure value of results.
These are the types of decisions that sports leaders have to make as part of portfolio management.
- How much is allocated for sports programs we already excel in so as to maintain success?
- How much is allocated for developing sports with the best potential for future success?
- How much is allocated for improving equipment and facilities?
- How much is allocated for the athletes’ rewards program and development program in general?
Program Management – Managing Sports Programs
A program, according to PMI, is a group of related projects managed in a coordinated way so as to obtain benefits and control not available from managing them individually. Let’s use the USA basketball program as an example. The objective of the program is to return USA to dominance in basketball. Previously, the USA team failed to win the 2002 FIBA World Championship and finished with bronze at the Athens Olympics. Jerry Colangelo was appointed as the director of the USA basketball program in 2005. He redefined the entire basketball program with the intention of coping with the increasing competition from other countries like Russia, Spain and Argentina. This current USA basketball program was projected to take 6-8 years with the objective of qualifying for the Olympics and winning Beijing and London. The USA basketball program has an even large scope and that is, to promote basketball globally.
The program manager, in this example, Jerry Colangelo is responsible for developing the overall program plan and creating high level plans for a detailed execution at the component level. The component level items are the projects.
Project management – Preparation and Games Participation
Now let’s break down the USA basketball program into projects.
- Assemble the team and train (no longer ad-hoc collection of NBA stars)
- Participate in qualifying tournaments (players projected to participate in main events for continuity)
- Participate in the basketball tournament (with the objective of winning the gold medal)
As you can see, we dissected the basketball program into three main projects. A project, according to PMI, is a temporary endeavor undertaken to create a unique product, service or result. It has a defined beginning and end and therefore a defined scope and resources. Colangelo appointed Mike Krzyzewski (Coach K) as the USA basketball coach. Essentially making him the project leader of the components of the basketball program we listed above.
This example illustrates how portfolio management helps manage a collection of programs and projects to achieve a strategic objective. The main goal of portfolio management is to maximize the value of the portfolio by the careful management of its components—the constituent programs and projects. Countries with resources to invest in sports programs and with the leadership to guide the program through have the advantage over others.
I drive to work five times a week…. I want to come home safe and sound everyday.”
I just participated in a Leadership Safety Program and as expected, I came out a little more passionate about safety. In each section of the two-day program, we were asked to write down action plans. The template asked us to identify: Actions, Challenges or Barriers, Solution to Challenges or Barriers, and Resources.
The very first one I wrote is the simplest one, but the hardest one to do.
- Action: No phone calls, no emails, no text, no social media while driving.
- Challenges/Barriers: Deep-rooted habit hard to break.
- Solution to Challenges/Barriers: Make safety personal, Just do it!
- Resources: Support from peers and family.
This action plan is easier said than done. Yes, there are reminders everywhere. AT&T is currently running an ad campaign against texting while driving that is so authentic and moving. Still, all my years of driving and using my phone at the same time has made me believe that nothing is going to happen to me. Experiences foster beliefs; beliefs influences actions; and actions produce results. The result — my bad habit of using my phone while driving.
Breaking the Habit
The biggest takeaway that I got from the program is how to make safety personal. I am convinced that making safety more personal is the solution. I decided to start breaking my habit yesterday. I called my boss before I physically left my office to wrap-up the business of the day. In the parking before leaving, I called my wife and asked her if she needed something. I told her I will be driving with my phone silent and in the car compartment. I will be unreachable for 30 minutes, and will see just her at home.
I drive to work five times a week. My family expects me to come home. I have a wife and two sons — two beautiful sixteen month-old twin boys. The story of how we had our first kids after nine years of marriage is a long one. So these boys are extra special and long-awaited. I dream of playing basketball with them when they grow up . I dream of travelling with them to places my wife and I have been to. I look forward to teaching them how to run, bike and swim. The best part of my day is when I come home. As soon as the boys hear me open the door, they drop whatever they’re doing and come rushing to me. It is the best feeling in the world. I want to be able to do all those things with them and for them. I want to come home safe and sound everyday.
Bad habits and false sense of security are main reasons why people behave unsafely.
Photo courtesy of adamr and video from AT&T
Building trust is vastly different from trying to establish who is right. It is about committing to, and working to achieve outcomes that people are willing to stand behind.
Never put yourself in a position that could lead others to question your character, your trustworthiness, or your integrity.
Think about jobs you have had or you currently have. When you trust the people you work with—your boss or the company leadership, for example—not only are you highly engaged but you also enjoy what you are doing; and you do everything you can to bring success to the organization. More importantly, when people trust each other, they take ownership of their environment and hold themselves and others accountable. On the other hand, when someone’s integrity, character or trustworthiness is put into question, the whole organization is negatively affected.
“Hearts and Minds” or “Renting Labor”—Why Trust Is Critical in a Healthy Organization
This lesson is about building trust, keeping trust and (occasionally) having to gain back trust. Trust is the groundwork of all relationships, especially of good functioning teams. It is critical for effective communication and employee engagement. It is a major factor of employee retention, and employee motivation and contributes to discretionary energy, which causes employees to go “above and beyond”. When trust exists in the workplace, everything else is easier to achieve. You can cultivate a culture in which people think performance, quality, and exceptional service—but there’s a big difference between these efforts resulting from the basis of trust; or from simple compliance. Results coming from a “trustworthy” organization resonate better with the market or with external entities. People want to patronize your products and do business with you if they trust you.
Once trust is broken, it’s said that it can never be regained. When this happens in the workplace, the relationship can take a very long time to mend. Productivity and efficiency is affected because the parties involved become guarded and suspect “hidden agendas”. However, honest mistakes will happen and these experiences also produce valuable lessons. Because trust is a core foundation value, never put yourself in a position that could lead other people to question your character, trustworthiness, or integrity. The process of building trust, character and relationship takes time, but can be destroyed in an instant.
In the workplace, there should be certain people we are able to trust without reservation: one of them is our manager. Managers build that trust by fulfilling accountability. This includes accountability to create a better and safer workplace; to have the best processes and tools to run the business and enjoy competitive advantage; and to expand opportunities for employees. We shouldn’t have to doubt the motivation behind managers’ decisions because there should be no motivation other than doing what is in the best interest of the company—based on company values and objectives.
However, in a workplace environment it is unavoidable that perceptions of unfair actions, inequities in various forms, and conflicts of interest may arise. In these situations, building trust is not easy. Successful trust-building in the work place hinges on three elements: clarity of purpose, open communication and a win-win attitude.
1. Clarity of purpose is represented by the company’s vision and purpose.
It is the structure of any organization. It is what keeps it moving forward with direction. It provides meaning to the day-to-day challenges. Building trust is vastly different from trying to establish who is right. It is about committing to, and working to achieve outcomes that people are willing to stand behind.
2. Open Communication is important in any relationship building.
It is also important in maintaining trust. How effective communication is in the work place is key. This is particularly important when implementing difficult decisions—for example, reorganizations, which potentially (and naturally) creates a certain level of distrust between leaders and employees. In order to address this distrust, leaders need to show their employees that the reorganization is for the good of the company (and its employees).
3. A win-win attitude approaches work as a collaborative endeavor, not a competitive one.
This attitude creates trust as both parties seek mutual benefits in interactions. Win-win means agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying. A person or organization that approaches conflicts with a win-win attitude develops vital character traits and strengths such as integrity, trustworthiness and collaboration.
Work-life Lesson 8 Takeaways:
- The best way to maintain trustworthiness is to keep away from breaking trust in the first place.
- Successful trust-building in the work place hinges on three elements: clarity of purpose, open communication and a win-win attitude.
- Building trust is vastly different from trying to establish who is right. It is about committing to, and working to achieve outcomes that people are willing to stand behind.
About the collaborators:
Ira Fialkow is the SVP of Member Services at Peeriosity. Prior to this, Ira was EVP of Shared Services at CEMEX and Rinker Group (acquired by CEMEX is 2007) from 1990 through joining Peeriosity in October 2010. Rinker Group was the initial recipient of the Best Mature Shared Services Award in 2003. Ira lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida and has been the champion of his fantasy football league in three of the past five years.
Ivy Remoreras is a marketing professional with eight years of extensive experience, particularly in product management, communications and promotions as a manager, university instructor and consultant. She believes in constant learning and has a Masters degree in Business Administration (MBA). Having resided in Europe, Asia and North America, she speaks four languages.
Photo courtesy of Renjith Krishnan
If you’re not sure about security and reliability, it is better to play the safe side rather than succumb to the trend. You have to weigh in the risks versus the benefits. In the end, the decision to go BYOD or not should be driven by doing what’s best for the business.
I succumbed to the fad of the moment two years ago when I purchased my first tablet to “bring my own device” and see if it works for me. I used it at first for personal stuff — to read and write blog posts and books, organize schedule and to do lists, etc. Later on, I tried to utilize it on some work-related activities like taking notes in meetings, writing email, updating and showing documents and presentations. In the end, I found myself abandoning the experiment and chose instead to go back to my old dependable PC, company-issued Blackberry and, yes, old reliable pen and notebook. As far as mobile phones are concerned, of course I would prefer an iPhone, but my current issued Blackberry is adequate enough. So why bother? Why spend my own money for another phone?
I am not saying that BYOD does not work. But it did not apply to me, not for the work that I do, and not at this time. I am not sold on the current trend of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), at least not yet. I know that currently, companies tend to give in to the strong demand for BYOD. This demand usually comes from executives who want to use their tablets, smartphones and other devices for work.
Others may argue that they are more productive with smartphones and tablets of their choosing. I would not be surprised if people working in sales who are road warriors and executives who survive on emails, meetings, and phone calls find BYOD highly beneficial. Technology companies may also benefit from BYOD through encouraging innovation and productivity. To me, the decision driver should be if it makes sense for the business. It is not what employees want; it is what they need in order to best serve their customers.
BYOD Promised Benefits and Options
On the other hand, one of BYOD’s supposed benefits is the reduction of IT costs. That cost is mostly associated with the cost of mobile devices itself and the monthly recurring data charges. So if you are a company looking for cost reduction as leverage for going BYOD, make sure you make your employees seriously cover the expense.
Another alternative to BYOD is to provide employees with options, however limited. One example is to provide both IOS and Blackberry (without having to endorse either one). This will provide employees with choices without worrying about crafting agreements for security. The company is also in control of support for these devices because they know the platform as it is part of their service set. IT can also open dialogue with other business units on where mobile technology can be of value to the business process and develop mobile applications that are secure and integrated to the company’s platform.
Argument Against BYOD
The other reason why IT is not rushing to embrace BYOD is the challenge of managing support for the devices. While those devices are easy to use from the user standpoint, they’re not so easily integrated into corporate IT. It takes time to train IT personnel to learn the platform and be able to sufficiently support it. As it is, IT is already burdened with limited resources focused on critical projects and operations. This makes it harder to venture into new areas.
However, the biggest argument against BYOD is information security. There is a very real risk of loss of informational assets and vulnerability to expose company data to outside the company walls that could cause undue harm to its customers and stakeholders. It is obvious that company information is probably less secure if it is on a device that the businesd does not have exclusive control over. If you are a bank, a medical institution, a tech company etc., information security is something that you can’t compromise. If you are not sure about security and reliability, it is better to play it safe rather than succumb to the trend. You have to weigh the risks versus the benefits. In the end, the decision to go BYOD or not should be driven by doing what’s best for the business.
Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles
Have you ever noticed that a positive attitude is infectious? Having employees with pleasant attitudecould mean the difference between a positive and supportive working environment and a workplace full of destructive conflict and negativity. You’ll go an extra mile for someone with a good attitude who’s pleasant to be around. Regardless of the circumstances of the company, you can create an environment where people genuinely care. If there is only one thing you can work on that will change you and your working environment, it is your attitude.
This article will discuss the importance of developing a pleasant attitude as well as give you some tips on how you can develop it.
Developing a good attitude in the work place creates a win-win situation. As an employee, a pleasant and positive attitude is indispensable to creating relationships with peers that will help you succeed in your professional endeavors. Your work attitude determines how high you can climb the corporate ladder. Your attitude determines how other people in your working environment perceive you. If you decide to have a cheerful, outgoing attitude, people will be drawn to you and you will be easy to collaborate with. You have total control. Your attitude determines whether you are open and proactive or closed and reactive, positive or defensive, advance ideas or bury them; and by our own attitude, we and we alone actually decide whether to succeed or fail.
For the workplace or organization, the right attitude translates to productivity. The single most efficient way to increase your productivity is to have a positive attitude at work. There is no other magic formula that increases productivity other than really, really enjoying your work.
Pick One Simple Pleasant Attitude (at a time) and Start Working On It
As a fair warning, working on one’s attitude is simple in concept but hard to do. It would be best to work with someone, a mentor for example, that you can collaborate with and with whom you can review feedback. Ask for frank feedback from your co-workers or your supervisor. There are countless work attitudes to choose from:
- Courtesy and Humility – This is about being courteous and respectful of people in the office no matter what their rank and designation. Courtesy shows politeness in one’s attitude and behavior toward others. Basic courtesy is polite speech or action. Use words like “please” and “thank you”. Another pleasant trait is humility, which simply means being humble when conducting yourself in the office. Humility is about having a healthy self-concept and being confident that you’re fulfilling your plan and purpose with integrity.
- Punctuality and Preparation – This means two things: first, punctuality is the act of being on-time in your appointments, which means showing respect to others; second, it is about being prepared to engage and the ability to complete a required task before or at a designated or committed time. Cultural differences make this attitude a little more difficult to traverse, but being on time and prepared are universal signs of respect.
- Pleasant - You can go an extra mile for someone with a good attitude. Unpleasant attitudes are restrictive and counter-productive. An example of an unpleasant attitude is giving non-constructive feedback. Upon receiving this feedback, people tend to become more reserved and keep things to themselves so as not to be criticized or blamed. Another simple tip is to wear a smile. Smiles are disarming and opening. Smile often even when the going gets tough. I know it is difficult. Try getting into the habit of smiling even when stressed. You will soon notice less knotted facial muscle and people will work better with you.
People with pleasant attitudes are a lot more fun to be around and consequently have better relations at work. This translates into better teamwork with peers; better working relations if you are a manager; more satisfied customers if you are in a service job, etc. Taking control of your attitude in the workplace and making it a habit to be courteous, humble, punctual, prepared and pleasant requires personal accountability. This means taking ownership of improving your attitude and understanding what you need to do to achieve it. You can do it one small step at a time by taking personal ownership. Bear in mind that it is a continuous process.
Work-life Lesson 7 Takeaways:
- Having employees with pleasant attitudes means the difference between a positive and productive work environment or a workplace full of problems and negativity.
- Your attitude determines how other people in your working environment perceive you. If you decide to have a cheerful, outgoing attitude, people will be drawn to you and you will be easy to collaborate with.
- When working on improving attitude in the workplace, it would be best to work with a mentor whom you can collaborate with. You can ask for frank feedback from your co-workers or have a discussion with your supervisor.
- Make it a habit to be courteous, humble, punctual, prepared and pleasant. You can do it one small step at a time by taking personal ownership.
Photo by KROMKRATHOG.
I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence but it was the first time we flew Continental, under United name and we had a bad overall customer experience.
I have been a loyal customer of Continental Airlines for many years now. My family and I use it for all our vacation and business travels. Although I could find other airlines offering more competitive air fares, I would still choose Continental. I have always found comfort and satisfaction flying Continental. The merger of United Airlines and Continental was announced in 2010. This union formed the largest airline in the nation, under the name United. I still patronized Continental during the post merger transition. I was remarkably surprised that they had maintained the consistency of their service level. I continued to be a very happy customer.
Last week, my family traveled to California for vacation. Of course, we chose to travel Continental. This time, the name on the plane was noticeably changed to United. Also, it said “Premier Access” on my boarding pass instead of the usual “Elite Access”. I expected our flying experience to be the same or better. A merger of two companies usually means the best practices of both established firms are retained. The outcome is usually the best of both companies.
I was wrong…
I flew back to Houston from Ontario, California last Monday. My wife and our twin infant boys were travelling with me. As can be expected when travelling with two infants, we had a bulky stroller with lots of baby stuff (formula, diapers, the works) in preparation for the three-hour flight.
What would you expect when boarding a plane with kids or infants? My expectation is to have a bit of consideration — maybe priority boarding. I understand that first class goes first (they paid for it), then military and passengers needing assistance — typically those in wheelchairs. But aren’t people with strollers and infant children also in need of assistance?
We were in boarding group 5. I don’t know if it was just me or because of the experience, but I feel bad about the number tag on priority boarding. This was printed prominently on the boarding pass. So groups 1 to 4 board before us. Usually, it does not matter to me if I were to board last; but since I am travelling with my twin babies, it certainly mattered now. I want them to be comfortable. So it became more personal.
More than half of the passengers were already boarded and we were still waiting for our group 5 to be called. My wife went to ask the gate service attendant because normally, in any flight (and not just with Continental), the people with infants were among the first to be boarded. But she got an unfriendly response and told to just get out of the way and wait for our group to be called. During our actual boarding, I asked the same attendant and got the same rude response.
I don’t know if it’s just a coincidence but it was the first time we flew Continental, under United name and we had a bad overall customer experience.
Here is another…
Arriving in Houston, we got our baggage and were surprised to see that one of our bags had a broken handle. The handle was destroyed in such a way that you could no longer use the luggage. It was a relatively new bag that we bought last January. It was only the second time that we used it.
We went to the United Baggage Service office in the airport. We were attended to and were given a reference number and a claim number. We were given a contact number and instructed to call it for follow-up and further assistance.
My wife called the number later, only to be referred to another office. That office asked her to call the United office at the airport instead but could not give her the contact information. On Monday, after we got home from the airport, she had received an email from the claim case that was filed and on it was contact information. She called that number and was told that the case was closed and she should call the United office at the airport if she had questions. At this point, my wife had to use a search engine to find another contact number for the Baggage Service office of United Airlines and get a clearer response to the status of our bag damage claim. She had to talk to several people and was passed on to several offices giving her conflicting information about the case. They damaged our bag and we had to go through all these just to get an answer that the claim is still in process. So far no resolution to it yet!
As you can imagine, this was such a frustrating experience for us flying United. The front-office customer experience was already bad and the after flight back-office service was just as bad!