As some of you may have seen, I was tweeting vigorously on the way home from Sage Summit It just so happened, that earlier that morning I found out (about 3am)) that my flight for that day to return home had been canceled. There was noreason, just an apology for the inconvenience that encouraged me to visit their website and enter my confirmation number to easily reschedule my flight online.
So, later in the morning I did just that – went the website, entered my confirmation number and grazed throughthe listing of flights that were available for me .There was no direct flight as my original had been. When I selected the flight I wanted, and clicked “next”, I received an error message that this flight wasn’t available. I tried again, just to make sure it wasn’t some fluke and the same thing happened. I thought that perhaps it was that flight and that I needed to select something different. Well, each flight I selected gave the same error message. I now had no other option but to call.
The first time I called, the automated system that put me on hold said the wait time would be 35 minutes. It then proceeded to disconnect me. I called back and the wait time was down to 30 minutes (perhaps because so many of us were disconnected before). I waited and waited. I actually took a shower and packed while waiting. Finally, a rep arrived on the phone. I explained what happened online and she apologized and agreed to assist me. For the next 45 minutes she assisted me by talking to me on the phone to ask a few questions and then placing me on hold for periods of sometimes 10-15 minutes while she made my flight arrangements. An hour and a half later, I had a new flight that started my trip an hour earlier and had me arriving to my final destination an hour later.
Eventually, I landed in Denver as planned but unfortunately without luggage[AA1] . It seems that my luggage never made it past my connection because of the way that United handled the whole debacle. At 10am,Eight hours later I make a follow-up call because my luggage has still not arrived. The reason I am given for my luggage not arriving is that there have been 100 other people that they have also lost their luggage and the airport only has two representatives…My luggage finally arrives at midnight.
On my final leg of the trip home from Denver, I’m now flying Southwest airlines. The airport was crazy as Denver was still having a lot of thunder storms and many people were trying to get home from the work week. We arriveto the check-in counter 45 minutes on the dot before our flight. An electronic buzzer goes off at the machine to tell us that we are at the 45 minute mark and that our luggage is at risk for not making our flight. The attendant looks at me and says,”Llet’s get your luggage out of here so we can do our best at getting it with you . If it doesn’t make this flight, it will automatically come in on the next flight,” she says. She proceeds to place green RUSH tags on our bag to highlight that they need to get to our plane. We arrive at our final destination, and much to our surprise our luggage made it with us.
All kinds of things can happen in travel. The difference between these two companies and the experience that I had as a consumer is one was prepared and customer-focused while the other was not (I’ll let you decide which one). Placing blame with your customers doesn’t help them feel better about your product or service; in fact, sometimes it makes the situation worse. Southwest set expectations and then exceeded them, creating an opportunity to impress, and if they hadn’t met the expectation there wouldn’t have been any surprises.
Do you create processes in your organization around common things that COULD happen to your customers? Or do you wait for those things to happen and decide then how to handle it with them? Do the processes you have set up work?
Make sure you gut check where you are to make the most out of any situation with your customers. There is never an opportunity you can’t use to impress.