HOW ONE “CUSTOMER” SAVED CONTINENTAL AIRLINES FROM IMMINENT BANKRUPTCY
When Gordon Bethune took over as CEO of Continental Airlines in 1994, the carrier had just emerged from its second bankruptcy and was headed for their third and potentially final round.
US Department of Transportation statistics from that year show among the ten largest US airlines, Continental ranked dead last in every single key customer service metric.
Against all odds, Bethune was able to turn the company around.
He did it with outstanding leadership, no doubt, but also through the help of one very significant “customer.”
BETHUNE’S LITMUS TEST
In his book, From Worst to First, Continental’s Remarkable Comeback, Bethune describes the challenges he faced when he first became CEO of the troubled carrier, including an overwhelming list of problems with the customer experience, on the ground and in the air.
It was too much to tackle all at once, and due to the company’s poor financial performance, money was short.
If the limited resources weren’t used properly, it could mean the end.
Bethune needed a simple method that the executives and managers in his organization could use as a litmus test for what was important when making decisions.
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