John DiJulius | Customer Experience Blog


5 Hours of “Service” ~ By©Jeff Nischwitz
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To better introduce you to our new Revolutionists, I am excited to share with you an article by Jeff Nischwitz.  Find out how your industry can benefit from Jeff’s airport experience. ~ John DiJulius

5 Hours of “Service” ~ By©Jeff Nischwitz

Recently, I had the “pleasure” of traveling back from a long weekend in Charlotte and I experienced the “best” (apparently) that the air travel industry had to offer.  Unfortunately, my day ended with a missed flight out of Philadelphia, and I was forced to spend the night at the Philadelphia Airport.  But that’s not what I take issue with.   I understand that stuff happens.  My issues are with the various “experiences” that I had along the way.

The shining moment actually came right at the beginning.  I was checking in at the Charlotte Airport, and my bag was under the weight limitation.  I told them that I wanted to put my jacket in my bag (if it didn’t go over the weight limit), but my jacket put the bag one pound over the limit.  To my pleasant surprise, they said “Go ahead; we’re not sticklers.”  A little thing, but a pleasant surprise to have my desires accommodated rather than following the one-pound over rule.  However, everything thereafter took a turn for the worse.

As I approached a confusing intersection, I asked one of the airport employees (who was clearly tasked with directing people) which way I needed to go to get to my gate.  Seeming annoyed, she gave me a quick explanation, and I started to head off in that direction.  When I immediately saw a sign that suggested that I was heading the wrong way, I went back and asked her to confirm her directions.  With a sarcastic and edgy tone, she responded, “Didn’t I tell you to go that way?”  A swing and a miss for this employee whose job it is to help people find their way.  Apparently, there’s a one ask rule in effect.

Later during my travels I learned that my flight was going to be delayed, which put me at risk for missing my connection out of Philadelphia.  Obviously, I was concerned and asked the service (interesting word) representative if she thought I would be able to make my connecting flight.  After asking me what time my connecting flight was, she responded simply, “You might not make it.”  Nothing more.  She did not check what gate my flight was leaving from or ask where I was flying.  It was a simple statement that I might miss my connection with no further input or assistance.  Another swing and a miss for this airline.

After a longer delay than even expected, we finally boarded the plane to Philadelphia and the pilot told us, “We will have you at the gate in Philadelphia by 9:45 p.m.”  This was hopeful news to me, since my connecting flight was scheduled to leave Philadelphia at 9:50 p.m.  I was optimistic that I might make my flight.  Unfortunately, the pilot had apparently been telling us what he thought we wanted to hear, rather than the truth.  We arrived at the gate in Philadelphia at 10:00 p.m.  At the time, the pilot certainly knew how long it would take his crew to ready the plane for take-off and he knew where he stood on the take-off priority list.  I understand that delays happen, but I would rather get accurate information than be further disappointed when they do not meet their stated commitments.  Yet another swing and miss when it came to the service experience.

Lest you think me merely a complainer, let’s look at the opportunities to easily get this right.

  • The first airport employee could have politely (and with a smile) repeated her directions, or perhaps clarified them, to make sure that I understood.  After all, my need was for directions and that was her job.
  • The desk person could have asked a few more questions to better understand my challenge and offered to check to see if my connecting flight was on schedule.  Several little things that would have demonstrated to me that she cared about my plight even if she couldn’t fix it.
  • Instead of giving me an overly optimistic estimate of our arrival time, the pilot could have given me a realistic estimate so that I would know that making my connecting flight was not a likely scenario.  I understand that delays happen, but I don’t like to be misled.

Five hours of mostly horrible service which all could have been averted with some simple, common courtesy and just a tad more proactive attention to me, the customer.  None of these “fixes” would cost more money and at most they would have taken a few more seconds to execute, but it would have changed everything regarding my experience.

But what’s the airport experience have to do with MY business you might ask?

  • Who in your firm has the most contact with clients regarding mundane or basic topics (e.g., directions, schedules, basic follow ups, etc.)?  Do they ever have a bad day or a day when they’re bored with the job … which might result in clients feeling like they’re “bothering” your team member?  I’m just saying…
  • When clients or prospective clients call into the office, do your front line team members ask questions to understand their needs (to see if they can help), or do they quickly transfer the call to someone else?
  • Do you or your team members ever provide overly optimistic time frames which result in your client being disappointed  because something didn’t go as promised?

No matter what your business, we all have opportunities to connect with and engage our clients based upon the experience that we provide.  We also have the same opportunities to “miss” with our clients, which may cause them to feel like they don’t matter.

What are your customers and clients experiencing that’s causing them to feel neglected, unimportant, and not cared about?  More often than not it’s the little things that matter the most in how your customers and clients “see” you and your value.  When it comes to the customer experience, you must sweat the small stuff.   The cost of missing the small stuff can be substantial.

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