Though my latest business trip was a complete blast, the trip back home was the absolute worst! 16 hours after I was supposed to land at my destination, I’m finally pulling up to my driveway to feed my deprived dogs that were only supposed to be home alone for a few, short hours between my roommate flying out the same afternoon I was supposed to return. (Don’t call animal police force on me yet: I fortunately had some fantastic friends who were able to come take care my four-legged babies during my unplanned adventure. Thanks John and Rachelle!) This extraordinary delay was caused by an unfortunate series of events riddled with opportunities for the airline to redeem themselves for their shortcomings. Not to point fingers (coughAmericanAirlinescough) yet keep my account of these travel blues short, here are my suggestions on what the company could’ve done differently:
#1) Say sorry and mean it: one of my biggest pet peeves in general is when people say “sorry,” without putting any meaning behind it. Say what you need to say, mean what you say and say what you mean: familiar phrases to live by, yes? Well, apparently our “undisclosed” airline may live by these rules as individuals, but they certainly don’t do business by these guidelines as a rule. Yes, the customers are human. And yes, the people who run the business are, too. So, we appreciate a little emotionality. The traditional corporate standby of delivering a predetermined, generic apology memorized by an underpaid customer “care” representative in a monotone lacks a certain “gusto” and integrity that any human craves, even the underpaid customer “care” rep.
#2) Own your mistakes, publicly: especially for such a big company like the airlines I used and how easy it’s to find bad publicity, it’s critical for the company as whole (not just the PR and Marketing departments) to respond appropriately to accusations of bad service. I mean, your company has got to have pretty bad customer relations if you have not just one, but two Twitter accounts dedicated to customers retelling their horror stories with your company: @AmeriAirSux and @AmAirlinesSucks. With these very open and public bashing sessions available, these channels are wonderful (and free) opportunities for the company to respond and improve the company appropriately in order to keep customers. But, based on the feed rate of these channels compared to the response rate from American Airlines, it doesn’t appear that they’re looking to improve the company for the customer any time soon.
#3) Find the true root problem: I know we’ve all been through this before where we find the easiest solution to a problem and immediately try to alleviate the symptoms when the true disease is something far worse and rooted much deeper still reeking havoc even though the symptoms have disappeared. Case in point, American Airlines underpaid customer “care” rep. With seven passengers missing their connecting flight home at 10:46 PM and no way to compensate us for a hotel or a hot meal because the delay was due to “unforeseen weather conditions” in bright and sunny Phoenix, guess who got the blunt of our frustration? Yep: underpaid customer “care” rep. Poor thing was being yelled at from all sides because us travel-weary customers “needed” someone to yell at about the poor state of things known as American Airlines.
However, in the middle of releasing my frustrations at her among my fellow cranky companions I stopped my rant realizing my behavior wasn’t helping solve the true problem. My ranting was only helping the symptom: releasing my frustration at American Airlines, which in that moment was personified as the poor underpaid customer “care” rep. Instead, I needed to take it to the actual company. After a couple hours of researching and social media bashing the company, however, I did feel better and I thought my frustration was more accurately focused to the true root problem known as the customer care philosophy of American Airlines and I helped save the underpaid customer “care” rep a few extra stressful minutes dealing with me, too.
All-in-all, basic courtesies and respect needs to be given no matter what company or industry you work in. I know even my wonderful e-commerce company can lose sight of this simple concept at times, too, at various levels within the company, (Sidenote: I honestly think our customer care center is one of the best I’ve ever dealt with, so the comment above is more of an internal observation about myself as a manager and working with my team). Simply put, smart business is respectful business. Treat others as you would like to be treated when you’re in a tough situation, (Golden Rule, any one?).
Be open. Be kind. Be courteous. Be a smart business person.
Send me a Tweet @KaitCook18 on a company you think provides honest and courteous service.
Photo credit: https://jimmykinnaird.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/being-good-and-angry/