3 Lessons Member Organizations Can Learn from United, Spirit, Delta…

Categories: Association Leadership, Association Management, Chambers of Commerce, Marketing & Strategy, Social Media Strategy


Airlines sure have been making the news lately, right? From United’s overbooked flight disaster, to fights breaking out on Southwest planes and in Spirit terminals, to Delta trying to remove a whole family from a flight – as if traveling wasn’t stressful enough! No matter the airline or the issue, two things stand out: these situations were all caught on video, and they all caused harm to the people that airlines are meant to serve…the passengers.

While airlines must play by a very different set of rules than we are all used to, some things transcend industry. We must all be conscious of customer service and perception!

Consider these lessons to help mitigate a difficult situation before it gets blown out of proportion.

1. Everyone is watching. Your every move. All the time.

We’re all videographers these days, and a member having the ability to easily record an interaction they have with your association could become unpredictable. That doesn’t only apply to potentially contentious situations – think about the last event you held where members were present. Did association staff look happy to be there? Imagine coming across a member’s account of the event and seeing staff, caught unawares, looking unhappy or bored or otherwise negative. Although unintentional, it could come off poorly.

Being “always on” can get tiring, but it’s worth it when you consider the alternative! The age of information has ingrained itself into our lives so seamlessly that your association staff may not be thinking about these things. Even if it feels like common sense, consider holding a meeting to talk about social media awareness and etiquette.

2. members come first – period.

Sometimes the “customer is always right” mantra just DOESN’T apply, but it should always be your first stance. It was company policy that got in the way of these airlines doing right by their passengers, but that makes me wonder how often organizations in any industry revisit policies that affect their customers. After all, things change, and sometimes so slowly that you become outdated without realizing it.

Your association may benefit from routinely examining its policies, processes and workflows – especially the ones that involve direct member management. Take a hard look to make sure they don’t harm the member experience – and if they could, either find a way to change the policy or be prepared to back it up cordially.

3. Perception is key.

And if, knock on wood, you should be faced with a bad situation caught on video, the public’s reaction will rely heavily on your association’s existing perception. Are you at least generally well-liked in your community? In the industry? Not sure? Time to find out!

Even if your current perception is lack-luster, the way a situation is handled by association representatives will speak volumes. Ensure that your staff knows to remain calm, cool and collected in a tense, public situation – and to move it to a private setting as soon as possible.


If you’re interested in diving deeper into issues management and crisis mitigation, check out our post from earlier this year – Be Proactive: Getting Started on a Crisis Communications Plan.

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