🎤Board a luxury, double aisle, supersized episode with Bryan Stoller, Global Head of Customer Care at United Airlines in “The one with United Airlines Customer Experience” CX Passport E107🎧 What’s in the episode?...
⚙️How to prioritize the insights gained from the customer contact center
👉What drove United's evolution beyond random call listening to deep contact insights?
🤯Ahh flight benefits! Flying to Hong Kong just to attend a friend's party!
💡A resolved experience makes for a good experience
🔬Learn WHERE to hunt...then GO hunt!
✅Unlocking insights by overcoming "internal thinking"
😯Handling IROPs - Irregular Operations
Hosted by Rick Denton “I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport”
💭“Learn something from [customer] interactions TODAY...to help TOMORROW” - Bryan
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Bryan Stoller LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/bryanstoller/
So this has been a really interesting cultural shift in the responsibility of the leadership team of a context or center organization to understand that our responsibility is not just efficiently handling the contacts that we have. Our responsibility is what we do with that information.Rick Denton:
You're listening to CX Passport, the show about creating great customer experiences with a dash of travel talk. Each episode we’ll talk with our guests about great CX, travel...and just like the best journeys, explore new directions we never anticipated. I'm your host Rick Denton. I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport. Let's get going. The cover art for CX passport has an airplane on it. Recent Episode Episode 99 featured former TWA Flight attendants and their tales from the golden era of travel. We've talked loyalty programs here along with guests sharing their greatest in some of their more challenging experiences during flights. Most maybe all but I don't want to assume six passport listeners have been on a plane. So it's an experience all of us have shared to some degree. I think that's part of what brings people to bring up airlines when they're sharing customer experience stories. That's why today's guests will be a fascinating one. Today we get to talk with Bryan Stoller Vice President Global Head of Customer Care and contact centers for United Airlines. Think about that for just a second responsibility for one of the world's largest and most global airlines responsibility for an area that many customers only need to contact when something's not meeting their expectations. How do you deliver a great customer experience with that scale? And in those scenarios, visualizing another element beyond global complexity. All this takes place inside an industry that has incredible operational and organizational complexity. What does it take for the context center to play a vital role in helping improve the overall experience even outside of their direct customer contact interaction? It'll be fascinating to hear the insights Bryan will share with us there. And folks, when your office is in downtown Chicago, USA, it's 20 minutes from O'Hare, one of the world's busiest airports. When you're working for an airline that has nonstop flights from there to 39 international destinations, and 157 us destinations, you know that Brian will have a travel tailor to to share with us, Bryan. Welcome to CX Passport.Bryan Stoller:
Hey, Rick, thanks for having me. And hello to all my CX colleagues out there listening with.Rick Denton:
Yeah, it's awesome. I've really ever truly deeply excited about this is gonna be fun. So. But before we dive deep, Bryan, would you just just start by saying a little bit about what your role is there at United?Bryan Stoller:
Yeah, absolutely. So I start out my description of my role when talking to anyone both consistently and deliberately. I started out by using the term that it is an honor to do what I do. And it's one that I take very seriously in my role as an advocate for our customers, potential customers, and certainly for our employees. My team consists of teams that you would traditionally think of all United Airlines or reach out to us uncheck our reservations team, our mileage plus loyalty programs support, the team you hope you don't need to contact, which is our baggage recovery team. Bags might be delayed. And of course, our Customer Care Organization responds to customers who have some feedback for us after travel. But we have all sorts of teams that you might not think of. We have a part of my organization that services the travel agency community that supports their agents. We have group travel for large teams and school events and we support them. We have a cargo customer service team that deals with the packages and cargo that people put on our planes. We have an accessibility desk that deals specifically with people who have extra special needs. We even have teams to support our internal employees, whether it is our airport support desk, so when the airports are stuck on something who do they contact, they reach out to the airport support desk, and even the flight attendant support team. And so these teams you know, together we have about 5000 people around the globe that are excellent at what they do. And it's my honor to lead them and to help make their lives easier, which in turn translate to making the customer's life easier. Life's easier. You know at the end of the day when I describe to people what my objective is for my job is two things. My job is to help Have my team resolved the needs of our customers? And to learn something from all these interactions today to help tomorrow? Yeah, those you know, that's, that's, that's what I do. And then once again, it is certainly the honor for me to do it.Rick Denton:
So I'm already here in the first few minutes. My mind is kind of, but I didn't think about some of the some of the Okay, no, I thought about some of those. But you're right that that wider scope of responsibility and making sure that all of that feeds to an overall great customer experience, something you said there at the end intrigues me as well. It's something that I certainly love to preach when we talk about contact centers. And it's that idea that I know, you get to set that vision for what a customer's and what a contact center can truly do. And I have a little pithy phrase, you know, I talk to clients about how companies should elevate the context center from a cost center, to a customer insights center. It sounds like that's one of those two goals. That's right there embedded in what you said at the beginning. How do you bring that to life in the United context? Center?Bryan Stoller:
Yeah, I love this topic. It's what I am very passionate about. And I think we're good we get on so well, Rick, you know, certainly, we've all heard the the the suggestion to turn a contact center into a revenue center. Right. And certainly there's nothing, nothing wrong with that. And there's something to be said for it. There's certainly opportunities but but I prefer to talk about the power of exactly what you said, which is turning the contact center into an insights organization. And let's be honest, like on the surface, we probably have a hard time finding any context, center leader that would disagree, that, in fact, is a part of their role. I've never worked with anyone who said that they didn't want to learn from the interaction. But I think the difference is in how we've been bringing it to life it united is how much you prioritize this, and how you do it. And in fact, I probably should reverse those. Because I think for me in my career journey, it's the changes that technology that have come about and technology that has made the how you do it easier, which allows us to now make it a bigger priority. We've all done in our previous experience, and some people probably still today, you know that the looking for insights by listening to calls randomly, you're just listening to calls, you might have some call listening collaboration with your team. And of course, that's always very valuable, but it's not very scientific. It's certainly not statistically valid, right? You always have an insight from it. But But when I've done that in the past, you want to find out all sorts of interesting things. And you throw them all at your team, and there's no rhyme or reason to them. And it just feels like you're chasing your tail all the time. And so despite the best of intends to learn from all of that, it's it's kind of a little bit like a needle in the haystack sometimes. And so what what changed for us and how we brought it to life, I would say, started with about five years ago, when we harnessed the power of speech to text analytics in our organization, and the ability to, quote unquote, listen to 100% of all of your contacts, regardless of the channel, of course, the speech to text would be for phone, but to use text analytics for chat and other non voice channels, the ability to harness the power of looking at all of that data, and analyzing it, to start slicing and dicing it. And figuring out where the opportunities are is what has been the big change for us. And the best way I describe it is you have the data you have the insights that it may bring, you can connect it with your own data, right, you can connect it with what we know about a customer, you can look at things like volume, trends, customer sentiment, you can look at customer satisfaction with respect to these contacts, right you can you can look at a tremendous universe of the data, which can then help you as you get experts to look at it and either validate hypotheses or just look for data that you know, you don't exactly know what you're looking for and just structure to go through it. The way I describe it is when you have the power to do this, it starts to tell you where to go hunt. Yeah. And then on top of it, then we hunt. And the hunting is different. And so I've kind of put these in two different categories. There's that with speech with with large scale AI powered analytics. We now have the ability to look at every single interaction we've had and start to To understand what are the high runners with respect to anything we want to look for? Get down to a playlist, if you will. Yeah. And I, you know, comments, equate it to like a Spotify play, I think you know, to get get down to like exactly what you're looking for. And then you play the playlist, you listen to the songs. And this is where you This is where the past of rolling up your sleeves and getting dirty and doing the hard work still needs to happen. And so now we get on calls with my team, and we look at what are the insights from just listening to these calls, not a random set of calls, but they listened to 150 of this call type. And then you get start to get some really, really interesting insights when you've listened to 150 of the same exact call type. Now number one, of course, they're not the same exact call type you thought they were, and then you start listening to them and you start learning wealth of things that you didn't know with the focus. And so this is this, you know, this methodology I've just described from harnessing the power of all of your data, using it to then understand where where we want to go hunt, and then hunting has been the secret of the insights that we then turn it back on us or the rest of the company.Your CX Passport Captain:
This is your captain speaking. I want to thank you for listening to CX Passport today. We’ve now reached our cruising altitude so I’ll turn that seatbelt sign off. <ding> While you’re getting comfortable, hit that Follow or Subscribe button in your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode. I’d love it if you’d tell a friend about CX Passport and leave a review so that others can discover the show as well. Now, sit back and enjoy the rest of the episode.Rick Denton:
I really like that approach. Because I'm a fan of listeners have heard me say it. I'm a fan of call listening. I love it the emotional impact of hearing the actual the the true emotional customer's voice in a call listening, there's such power in that. I also recognize the absence of scalability in that. And so the speech to text certainly has been great. And there's been an evolution over the last several years in its capability, and its quality is now so much better than it ever was before. And it will continue to be even better in the future. What I like though, is that you didn't abandon that rolling up the sleeves aspect of it. Because if you did just look at the trends and the themes, and you posted them up on a report or something like that, you might lose some of that emotional impact. And you even said, Hey, listen to 100 150 calls of the same theme. And then we realized, oh, wait, it's not the same call. Because guess what humans are messy. And so hearing that aspect of it. Have you wondered about that kind of messiness of that when you get into that hunting? Have you found yourself completely shocked by a discovery and you were thinking we know it's going to be x but my goodness, oh my gosh, we've got to go tackle whyBryan Stoller:
pretty much every time. All right. But let me just take one step back for a second, your point on the combination of the technology, and the kind of old school way of doing it. There. This is important, because companies will try to sell you on the fact that just having one is enough. And then you'll be frustrated that you have that product, and then you're not actually able to achieve your goals. These products are great for what they do. And they like I said, they tell you where to go hunt. Now, if you if you're looking just looking for high level data, like you know, what percent of my calls are this and what percentage? They're great at that. But but we all want to know more, we all want to know, okay. You know, X percent of my calls are people changing the reservation. But why is it that they're calling? What what is it about the experience on the website on the mobile app? Or that that made them call? And this is sort of the sorts of things that we listen for? What are the examples of this, in the early stages of the pandemic, when we started issuing really billions of dollars worth of travel credits for customers that needed to cancel the trips, right, they didn't want to travel. And so at that time, we started the planning phase of that one day, customers would want to come back and use those credits. And we started early, and we started to build out ways to make credits easier to use and customers were no matter where to go. And now fast forward to you know, a year ago, were a little bit more and when customers were starting to come back, they were excited about traveling again, people were using the credits and so we did this exercise on travel credits. And then we had done a lot of previous work to try to make the travel credit experience better than it ever was. But there was still a lot to learn. And one of the things that you know we learned a lot about which sometimes you feel silly when you when you make up when you have a learning because it seems so obvious but sometimes internal thinking inhibits you hit him it's your view but what we or does it you know, in the airline business, when you want to use a credit, you need to basically open up that reservation that you had from your original trip. And so you want to change your itinerary, which makes a lot of sense to people who've been traveling a lot. But if you don't travel a lot, and your only experience with credits is kind of retail stores, right? That's, that's where you would typically call your conclusions on like, well, how is this going to work in a retail store, you have a credit. And you know, you go to the gap, and you had a credit that's from a previous return, you go to the store, you find what you want, you go to the checkout counter, and you say, Hey, I'd like to buy this. And I'd like to use this credit. That's not how the airline industry has historically worked. But through call listening, and kind of focusing on credit calls, what were the reasons that people who were using credits, keep calling us and what what was the friction, that they couldn't figure it out on their own, what we learned is, this is what people were doing, they were going on the website, they were going down a new booking path, they were putting in their travel, and on the payment page, they were looking for a way to use the credit that they had, it makes a lot of sense. It's just not historically how the travel industry has worked. And so we said, oh, well, that makes a lot of sense. So now let's put this functionality in place. And so instead of telling customers and having to train the customer on the way the industry works, you're changing the way the airline works the way the customer would expect it to. And so the the insight, and the work that we did in partnership with our technologies team, was to make it very easy for you, if you went through the purchase path, and we're trying to use your credit to do it there. And then we do all of this work behind the scenes to make all of our systems understand that and that, you know, that's that's an example of an insight that came directly from our listening as to why people were confused around utilizing credits.Rick Denton:
And you said something, kind of in the middle of that, or maybe at the beginning of that story you said, you know, sometimes in 30, internal thinking inhibits your view. Absolutely. And so by having those customer insights, and having the ability to to share those across the organization helped unlock that. I love that example. Because as someone who's had to use his credits, you're absolutely right. And I've seen the evolution of airlines improve in how they handle me and my use case of using credits. Now, that reminds me of something else, that I think when I think of the airline industry, I think it's one of the most complex operationally. And organizationally, I mentioned it in the introduction. If you think of roles that touch the customer, right, you've got things that we think of flight attendants, we think of pilots or gate agents, baggage handlers. And so maybe having them think of the customer front of mind, well, that's probably just part of kind of day in day out. But there's it You mentioned having it make these changes to enable the credit process. There's finance, marketing, analytics, weather ops. So how to create kind of a customer centric view across all of United takes a lot I would imagine how does your team help influence those roles that may not think of themselves as customer facing, realize they are customer influence and customer facing?Bryan Stoller:
Yeah, this is a very important component to your insights being actionable. And in fact, we call this group within my organization insights to action, that is the name of the group. We have a group of folks that this is all they do their job is to look at the data, do the listening the ideation work with partner teams to figure out where we want to go next, to improve the customer experience based on these insights, and been a little bit of a cultural change even in my own organization, telling people that they're listening to the call, not for the sake of understanding what the agent did or didn't do, or actually beside the point, but listening to what was on the customer? And what what was on the customer's mind. What what happened before, what did the customer say? Did they say something didn't work? Then that person didn't realize I'm going to try that functionality just to see what was that experience like? So this has been a, this has been a really interesting cultural shift in the responsibility of the leadership team of a context or center organization to understand that our responsibility is not just efficiently handling the context that we have. Our responsibility is what we do with that information. And so that that, you know, I'll get to your question. But that's, that's the piece of where it starts. But right to your question is how do you bring the rest of the organization rest of the company, not my organization? How do you bring the rest of the company with you? This is absolutely critical to the success of an insights program. If all I do all day long is creates insights, and no one actually is interested in doing anything about them. Then it's pretty much wasted effort. And so the secret to enabling folks quite frankly to care has come I'm through a little bit of trial and error. And so I'll share with you what the successes of that trial have been. First is executive sponsorship of what this is. And not just from my group, but from all the groups that we're going to touch. So in the case of united, strong buy in at the beginning, from your digital technologies organization, right. So we had to have strong support from our chief digital officer. And while we were trying to do similar, we had to have strong support from our Chief Commercial Officer organization, because a lot of what we find are confusing policies, policies that don't make sense policies that customers don't like. So we're going to go back to that commercial side of the organization to evaluate the pros and cons. And so those are just two examples. And then we work with many teams, but there's to call out, but that the buy in from those groups doesn't just come from, hey, Doesn't this feel good? This feels like the right thing to do, which certainly it is, it also comes with tying in what we're doing to their goals. And so you know, you hear this a lot when you're trying to collaboratively set goals. So that's one part of it is the executive sponsorship and buying because let's be honest, like unless it's unless it's a priority of someone at the most senior levels, it's really difficult to get folks attention. So that's one. The second one is around bringing these experiences to life. For people, there's nothing like and you said it earlier, there's nothing like playing a recorded call to a group of whomever group of executives at United a group of frontline employees, to have them understand what the implication of something that we did was just the power of the voice of the customer, the real voice, as you said, versus, you know, some chart that summarizes or some, you know, you can even do, you sometimes will get really great feedback from customers written, right bringing that to life. But the more you can bring the the actual real experience for what that felt like, and hearing it in the customer's voice or seeing it in the tone that they've used in a letter. That also is quite powerful. So the more you can bring these two places for people to see, it's hard to ignore them when you have to face you know, the real the real experience. And lastly, is connecting the dots of the full experience for folks. And what I mean by that is, you know, we can talk about how a particular thing has an opportunity, it could be better, but we what we tend to do is we tend to look at that thing, that experience, we tend to backup and map out that experience from end to end. So a combination of basically all of those things, in addition to the executive sponsorship, are about bringing the actual experience to those that are responsible for it and giving them that broader zoomed out view of the end end. Because sometimes if you don't have that, then you may miss a piece of the puzzle, though. That's how we tend to get people to understand it. And once they understand it, you generally don't have a problem in Dubai. And that you know, it's the really the understanding, that's the that's the secret.Rick Denton:
It is what I like about that as you again it kind of like was talking about earlier, sort of the technology and then the the heart of it, it's the same kind of thing of how you You're showing them, you know, here's the visual of it. But then there's the emotional impact of the customer going through it the voice, there's the what's in it for me that you were describing, oh, yeah, the Chief Digital Officer absolutely sees this, which then creates the executive buy in that helps move that forward. All of that are definitely lessons that can certainly be applied in other organizations. This is not an airline only sort of thing of how one can really create a contact center that is truly that customer insight center, not just for itself, but then how it spreads that customer out, man, I gotta find another phrase then customer centricity, but that customer orientation across the whole organization. Now, Brian, it's a travel podcast as well, I'm going to pivot on you here. When we you and I talked before the show you and I had discovered that your husband and you were in Japan, kind of the same time that my family was so sort of it was surreal, almost oh my gosh, we almost had a small world moment being truly at the same place at the same time. That is one thing that fascinates me about the airlines, right, in theory, you could show up at O'Hare. And you could look at the big departure board and just kind of saying, you know, I'm gonna go there this weekend. Have you had that moment of yeah, let's just go do x this weekend moment. And so what was that like?Bryan Stoller:
Yes, we have many of those moments. I will say on the Japan coincidence, when we when we both realized we were in Japan at the same time, it became a question of when, okay, what city Oh, Tokyo. All right. What part of Tokyo and we got tons of like what hotel and we have seen each other breakfast which was which is funny and you You have so many of these small world moments when you travel, because you realize that you see people that you don't expect to see. And, and I have a lot of those small world moments because I do have the incredible privilege to be able to travel. And we've had so many of these just let's just go somewhere a moment, you know, you don't eat. So when you take out the when you take out the fact that you don't need to pay for an airline ticket, it changes your mindset a lot on what, how you think about travel. Because most people buy airline tickets, airline tickets, you know, can be pricey, particularly to further destinations, and you say, Well, I'm gonna maximize every last thing about this trip, to get the most for my money. And when you work early, you don't necessarily feel that way. Because you can just go back, you can just go back. And so we do a lot of, you know, we'll do as much or as little as we want and a destination. So that's kind of different. And, of course, the length of the trips, when you can go to places frequently are shorter, you tend to take advantage of your, you know, your weekends as an example. So there are countless times of us traveling to Europe for one night. And you know, whether it's Paris or London and have a nice meal and get a little bit of sleep, and back on the flight the next day, we did Hong Kong, I think our furthest was Hong Kong for 24 hours. Wow, we had a friend that was living there. And she was having a party and she invited us to come not thinking that we would. And and we did. And you know, we were there for just, you know, under a day and back on the flight. And so it is really amazing to be able to see the world. The reality is, you know, when you work for an airline, there's the piece of there has to be a seat. You gotta be yes, there has to be a seat. Our customers come first before before the employees do. But it has been a joy. I've I've seen all seven continents, most of that is due to you know, having worked for an airline.Rick Denton:
Oh, Bryan, I am so jealous. I'm jealous of every airline, but that I hadn't even thought of that concept of I don't have to squeeze everything out of the trip. Guess what we tried to do in Japan, our family tried to squeeze everything out of it. Because I don't know when I'm going to be back there again. I've got to imagine though, Brian, that that kind of travel can be a little exhausting. And so I don't know what that lounge access is like when you're doing that kind of travel. But I imagined stopping in the Players Lounge might be kind of nice. So join me here in the first class lounge. So we've quickly here and have a little bit of fun here. What is a dream travel location from your past?Bryan Stoller:
Well, we we did go to Antarctica. And we took a we took a ship from the base of Argentina and sailed down to Antarctica and got to go walk with the penguins and breathe fresh air. And then we actually went to flying back to the tip of Chile. So I'd say Antarctica probably was the most unique and special of anywhere that we've beenRick Denton:
what a fantastic trip that had to have been. I joke that I've had guests from every continent except for Antarctica, but it's also a continent that I've not had the chance to travel to yet. And so I'm both optimistic that one day I'll have a guest from there some scientists talking customer experience, I guess, and had the opportunity to travel there. It just it sounds like a fantastic trip and what a great opportunity that must have been. Now, I don't know if anything's left on your list. But what is a dream travel location you've not been to yet?Bryan Stoller:
Well, as I'm sure you would agree, the more you travel, the more you realize you haven't seen Yeah. And so it's a strange thing is as as I reach more and more destinations, my list gets longer. But top of that actually is is Vietnam, a country that has been at the top of our list for many years and for some reason we just never seem to get to it and I'm hoping maybe this is the year but the culture the food. The history seems really really worth a visit and so that's that's hopefully up next for us.Rick Denton:
I can I can attest to it. It's a spectacular place to be that was only there on a business trip. So only for a few days. But it was amazing. Everything you just said the culture the scenes, the food spectacular. So yes, that needs to I hope you y'all are able to hit that this year for sure. Speaking of food, what is a favorite thing of yours to eat?Bryan Stoller:
Anyone who knows me knows my absolutely favorite food of any is french fries. And it is it seems so simple, but I have always loved French fries, all types. And it's almost like for some people they have a separate stomach for dessert. I have a separate stomach. French fries. In fact, you can keep the dessert I'd rather have another help than fries.Rick Denton:
Oh, Bryan, I love that. Yeah, I can identify with a separate stomach. The problem is, I can't tell you it's one category. I got a lot of separate stomachs for a lot of different food types. But a good French fries spectacular. Okay, let's go the other direction. What is the thing your parents forced you to eat? But you're hated as a kid?Bryan Stoller:
This? This is a tough question. Because if I'm really honest, my parents didn't make me eat anything as a kid that I didn't want to, which perhaps explains a lot about me today. And there were many things I didn't like, I didn't like cheese, and I still kind of don't like cheese. I hated Chinese food growing up. Now. I love it. So fish I hated growing up. No, I love it embarrassing to say but honest that they didn't make me make me eat anything I didn't want to do?Rick Denton:
Well, it's good to know that you like other guests of the past have found a way to evolve through the things that you didn't like and have found a delight in them. So what is that one travel item not including your phone or your passport? You will not leave home without the honestBryan Stoller:
answer is my laptop when you're in a job, like I'm in, while I have the absolute amazing opportunity to see the world, I run a 24/7 operation. And, and I have an amazing team that I can rely on and do rely on anything can happen at any time. And I need to be able to take care of certain things. And while iPhones and iPads have gotten better and better, there are some things that I still have to do on the laptop. And so honestly, I go to very few places without my laptop with me.Rick Denton:
You know, Bryan, you talk about that, that 24/7 the fact that y'all are a global operation. And I have to imagine that, along with just day to day handling of customer contacts, there are those unscheduled moments, some bigger than others that create that incredible demand on the contact center, including, as we know, some very legendary ones in the recent past. How can a contact center handle those major moments both for the customer? And also for the employee?Bryan Stoller:
Yeah, certainly, you know, in the airline industry, one of the peak volumes that impact the customer experience and the employee experience the most is what we lovingly refer to as irregular operations, or Iraq's is the internal, that's when you know, there's typically large weather system or some other type of either controllable or controllable or non controllable, big event that's impacting a large portion of flights. And when those happen, understandably, customers need us and and we work hard to be there for them. You know that the old adage of you can't build the church for Easter Sunday is is important here, right? Because we we can't, these are unexpected events. And so yes, we'd want to handle them as quickly as we can. But we can't do wouldn't be cost effective for us to staff, a contact center organization, just in case every day we have because the spikes are, you know, several times typical volume, right? They can they can get to be that large. So what do we do that? There's a few things we do? Well, in tying it back to the earlier conversation is, this is why we spent a lot of time looking for insights, because we really are truly looking for what was it about the situation that made the customer feel like that they had to contact us. And there's always so much rich insight here about how we could have improved the communication, we sent them about their flight, how we could have communicated a little bit earlier how the self service tool in this particular use case actually doesn't work. So there's always, you know, this, this, this theme of looking for insights is key. But that doesn't, you know, that helps after the fact that doesn't help in the moment. So if we're in the moment, we've gotten really good at flexing our resources towards more pressing priorities, and away from less pressing things in the moment. So we cross skilled folks to be able to do that. You know, perhaps I'm working some requests from customers who were asking about, you know, why they didn't get some mileage from the previous trip, you know, I'm gonna take some of those resources, take them off of that, put them on handling regular operations and try to get through that spike of volume as as quickly as possible. So we were pretty good at kind of leveraging our workforce worldwide. We're good at asking for as many contracts and our leaders are asking for voluntary overtime, right, we incent folks to stay. So one of Those are things that we've used over the years and, and have optimized them as best we can that the the more recent one that I'm pretty excited about and proud of as a company as a whole, is we looked for scenarios where we have resources, extra resources that we might be able to use. And here's an example of this. What happens in an irregular operation is, it tends to impact one of our hubs or two of our hubs, or maybe in a bad day three of our hubs, we have 1000s of airports across the globe. And so if you think about your experience, as a individual who may be in Chicago, at the airport, suffering from, you know, a cancellation or a delay, and there's snowstorm, or what have you, you're probably doing one of a few things, or all of the following, you may be picking up the phone and contacting the contact center are trying to chat with us, you probably in line somewhere also waiting to see if if at our Customer Service Center, you can be helped more quickly there. And you're also you know, you're paying attention to our to our messaging that's coming through. The problem is you're doing that and so are hundreds of other people, because at the Chicago hub, that's where, you know, most people are impacted. But at our San Francisco hub, it might be a blue sky day, everything's going beautifully. Historically, we weren't able to really tap into the power of the people working at the San Francisco hub the the excess capacity that they might have, but because it's a good day, you steal them out from a gate, trying to make some of the gates with one agents that have to and you take those folks, and you enable them to support Chicago? Well, how will you do that. So United launched something pretty spectacular, called agent on demand. And what agent on demand allows us to do is it allows us to utilize our employees across the globe, at the airports to support customers at other airports. And they do that for you through video, through chat, or through a voice call. And our customers get to this either through their United app, or there's QR codes around the airport. And so this is another means of being able to add incremental resources during a scenario like you've described, where you just have a need for a lot of people all at once. And so people from the contact centers from other airports not impacted everybody kind of rallies behind this need. You bring the volumes of the customers at Chicago down hours more quickly than you otherwise would have.Rick Denton:
It seems so simple. As we're talking about it like it's so so brilliantly simple. I know there's a ton of work to make it happen. There had to been incredible sort of mental barriers to get through that you describe Hey, no, no, if I'm, if I'm in SFO, then guess what I can only work with passengers that are standing. For me. That was a mental leap that had to be overcome, and the technology and all that. But that's, that's brilliant. It's fascinating. I would imagine that as a customer of United, if I were in one of those irregular operations moments, I'd be so thankful to have a faster access to someone. It's, you mentioned the global part of it, Brian, and I want to talk a little bit about the global nature of customer contact and employee experience. Right? United is an airline that I truly could see the tail graphic in New York, I could see it in New Delhi, and I could see it in New South Wales, I can see it all over the globe, that creates a wide range of expectations around experience. So how do you manage those global expectations around experience kind of both customer and amongst your global employee team,Bryan Stoller:
what I've found first and foremost, particularly in a context and organization, is the resolved issue makes for a good experience, no matter where you are in the world. Amen. For me, that is first and foremost. And so I would say we're focused there first. But that's not to say to your point, that there aren't differences, culturally, as an example, in the way people do business in one part of the world versus the other. And oftentimes, when things get sticky, that's where these cultural this cultural awareness can really matter. Yeah. Because you know, things might not be going right. But if I connect with you, right, if I, if I really understand who you are, and I'm interacting in a way that is efficient for you, then that can help make a go from go from a horrific experience and make it less less bad. And so we across the company, including the contact centers, but across the company have been focused on a number of the destinations that we fly to and we serve customers from and spending more time understanding what are the norms of that particular destination? Would it be But like, what are they dislike? How are they likely to interact with you? But the interaction from a human standpoint is one that we have been spending a lot of time on. Because like I said, I think it can be a key differentiator.Rick Denton:
Yeah, I like that. It you've given me in that answer in the close of that answer, kind of the two parts in the world is the same fix my problem, restore my relationship. And the world is different, do it in the way that is meaningful to me that is sensitive to me in the mode that is important to me. Now, Bryan, you can see the clock as well as I can write this is we have gotten so far over time, and I love it, because I've gotten so much good insight from you already. I want to steal a little more time from you, though, and I want to look forward, I want to look at it. We're recording this in that kind of late January of 2023. The episode will probably come out in early March, right. So let's look forward a bit. The airline has been through the pandemic and is coming through the pandemic, just bursting at the seams with revenge travel, and all of the demand that is out there for that. So what do you see is the big challenge and the opportunity for customer experience for United in 2023.Bryan Stoller:
I'm excited about our future, to continue our mission, that United of being the best airline in the world. This is a tough industry. And it is extraordinarily complex. And, you know, a lot of what I think about is, while it is extraordinarily complex, our customers don't necessarily need to understand that complexity, you know, back in the day, it was the industry is complex. And let me teach you how the industry works. And, and we're you know, we're moving away from that, let us try to make it so you don't need to worry about that to the best of our abilities. And you know, you use the word seems you said the industry is and travels bursting at the seams, but I'm gonna use it another another use of that word, because I think about the scenes of the experience. And because it is such a complex industry, and because there's so many people involved, the seams of the interactions of the handoff from one to the next is a place where things can inevitably go wrong. And it's an area that it can be easy to say, well, we don't own that piece of the puzzle. And so, you know, that's not our responsibility to say, you know, whether it's ours or not, we deliver the customer journey to the customer, and the customer looks to us as the owner of it. And so whether it's something like you know, a wait time at the TSA line, it will be easy for us to say, well, that's Homeland Security that's responsible for that, that's just too easy of an out. And we need to be focused on every piece of the journey. You know, we've checked in at the airport, now we've handed you over to TSA. And we need to be an owner of that experience. And be mindful of it and watch the metrics around it, I guess is what I'm getting it right. The thing is, you can't take your eye off the ball for those things that you were relying on another company for and so whether it's wheelchair handlers that will push wheelchairs through an airport, if it's a vendor partner at us at a contact center, whatever it is, I think the challenge is we have to keep an eye on all of it as if we were still running it all. Because only then because of an industry that's full of seams full of these handoffs, it can create a an issue and these issues tend to compound, you know, once something happens at secureline. And then next thing you know, you're gonna apply it and then if so, so that's I think the challenge is the industry is complex, and there's a lot of people involved. And so how do we look at it from the customer's point of view and keep an eye on each part of the journey, even when we don't own it to make sure we're doing everything we can do to deliver the best experience? When I think about the opportunity, I'm excited about a lot of things. We we are in the process of kicking off a new part of my team that we call customer advocacy. There are things that any company that no single person owns, it's not clear who owns it. And instead that no one else. Yeah, and there are pieces of a customer experience at any company where there's not clear ownership, but there might be opportunity or challenges. And when you want to pursue those what can be difficult is because there's no clear owner, then the decision making of what to do with them can be challenging, because everyone will have an opinion. And that's all well and good and you need have those debates but where there's not a clear owner of it, who's the decision maker, there isn't anyone to decide. And so what the point of this customer advocacy team is, as we find challenges across the customer journey, that don't have a natural owner, my new team is going to kind of advocate for these ideas, work with the various teams to gain their input, and then become kind of the the steward of decision making. And that's not to say we make the decision, but we will become the forcing mechanism. We're trying to add an element of more sophisticated decision making with his team as well, that says, Alright, well, let's look at the broader impact here. What's the impact on net promoter score, or customer satisfaction? What's the impact on cost? What's the impact on revenue? What's the impact on brand? And the idea is not only do we help to get to a decision by shepherding this through the company, where there's no clear owner, we're also making more sound decisions by helping weigh all all of the components in an organized way. So this is I'm pretty excited about this. This is united taking to the next level, what we've been doing for the past few years, which is constantly trying to do things that are better for our customers and that sell either pain points that they have that existed or just closing opportunities that we or other folks in the industry haven't been able to solve yet.Rick Denton:
That's that's, I liked that one. It did. The customer advocacy team is pretty cool. That sounds very interesting. And I kind of like ending there. Bryan, it was a great conversation. I really enjoyed getting to hear these insights from you. I certainly enjoyed may that's not the right word was made incredibly jealous by hearing about your ability to travel the world at the drop of a hat. But no, of course I enjoyed that aspect of it. Really delightful conversation, especially getting into the insights of you know, how can we solve some of those irregular operations it was this was really helpful.Bryan Stoller:
I happy to help anybody you can reach out to me on all the various channels probably LinkedIn is the best and happy to learn from others and share share our best practices.Rick Denton:
Excellent. I will get your LinkedIn URL in the show notes down below contact Bryan find out more about his perspective around customer experience. I learned a lot here today. I can imagine learning from him ongoing would be something brilliant to do, Bryan, thanks for being on the show.Bryan Stoller:
Thanks, RickRick Denton:
Thanks for joining us this week on CX Passport. Make sure to visit our website cxpassport.com where you can hit subscribe so you'll never miss a show. While you're at it, you can check out the rest of the EX4CX website. If you're looking to get real about customer experience, EX4CX is available to help you increase revenue by starting to listen to your customers and create great experiences for every customer every time. Thanks for listening to CX Passport and be sure to tune in for our next episode. Until next time, I'm Rick Denton, and I believe the best meals are served outside and require a passport.