United Airlines and WITCE (What is the Customer’s Experience?)

One of my favorite new improvements at United Airlines are their new gate screens. United has rolled out large flat screens at their gates which display the departure time, the destinations weather, the arrival time, the standby list and most importantly for me, upgrade information.

In the past, the line at the gate counters would be a mile long with people wanting information. We’d all file in waiting patiently to find out if the flight were on time, were we on the standby list or if we had been upgraded. The majority of gate agent inquiries were for information. The requests weren’t actionable.

There was no need for this. It just clogged up the line for people with actionable needs, like seat changes, flight change requests etc.

Even worse, it creates a terrible customer experience. I hated waiting in line just to ask a simple question. I know I’m not the only one. How many times have you been in a really long line when someone cuts to the front and says; “I only have a quick question.” I hate it, but it is legit, why wait in a line for 20 min. for something that can be answered in 5 seconds.

United’s new screens are great. I can walk up to the gate, see the if I’ve been upgraded, where I am on the list if I haven’t been and most importantly, if I have a chance in hell of being upgraded. I can see the weather of my destination and how long the flight is. It’s great. I almost never talk to a gate agent anymore. I almost miss them. 😉

If I’m not talking to gate agents anymore neither are others and that is good for United. Gate agents can now focus on serving people with actionable, pressing needs. I don’t know much about gate agent scheduling, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they can now schedule fewer agents per flight saving on labor costs.

The new information screens are win- wins for everyone– those of us who don’t want to wait in line for information, those who had to wait in line to change a flight and for United.

Focusing on WITCE is always a win-win.

WITCE is a question. One start-ups and Fortune 500 companies should ask regularly.

As a mentor to a few start-ups, it’s one I will ask more often. By asking about WITCE answers are found and that moves the business ahead and that’s good for everyone.

Who ever at United asked about the gate “WITCE”; thanks! This customer loves your answer.


WITCE: What is the customers experience? Is a term I learned from Rob Strickland former CIO of T-Mobile USA. He built WITCE into the culture of the IT organization and it was at the core of such efforts as 5 minute activations. It’s a powerful question.