Last week's disturbing story about a doctor being physically removed from a flight in Chicago was certainly a public relations nightmare
for United Airlines.
The situation provoked outrage from passengers all over the country tired of being treated like cattle on over-crowded flights and nickel-and-dimed for things that used to be included with your airline ticket.
Hawaii Senator Brian Schatz got 20 of his colleagues to sign a letter demanding answers from the airline, and hinting at more regulation ahead.
This incident will be costly for the entire industry.
But there is also a valuable take-away from this unfortunate event for any business that depends on return customers; Empower your employees.
It's hard to imagine United's ground staff would have called police to remove the man if management had given them better options. It doesn't take a business guru to know that the right cash or coupon incentive would have lured someone else off that plane.
The key to the best customer service -- and indeed to running any business -- is to trust the people who are face-to-face with your customers, and give them the tools they need to make sure the company meets its goals, and the customers are satisfied.