Duh! It’s Not About You!

On July 31, 2017, the airlines were dealt another blow. I say the “airlines” instead of “The airline,” or in this case, Air Transat, on purpose.

I believe that every time we hear about airline mismanagement, in spite of what their “hospitality-centred” ads say, the public is made more aware of the airlines’ culture being more operations and profit-focused than truly guest-centric. These incessant non-guest-centric issues are building a level of distrust that not only affects the airline brand but the industry as a whole.

In this instance, two Air Transat flights, bound for Montréal had to divert to Ottawa, due to bad weather and were grounded for a short time. One was en route from Brussels, the other from Rome.

After landing, passengers were kept on board the plane for more than four hours, and six hours, respectively.  The flight from Rome already had an issue with their air conditioning; now both flights were stranded on the tarmac without food and water for their passengers.

According to a CBC report, “Airline representatives said they received no requests to deplane and were repeatedly told refuelling was between 15 and 30 minutes away.” However, Air Transat tariff states that passengers have the right to get off grounded vehicles after 90 minutes with the Pilot deeming it safe to do so. An option never provided to the passengers.

In any non-crisis situation, businesses need to provide their customers with options

So here is the challenge. You are waiting for a problem to be resolved. You are being told it’ll take 30 minutes, so you wait. But then you are told it may take a little bit longer, so you wait some more. 60 something minutes into your wait, you are told the problem should be resolved shortly. 90 minutes in, you request a definition of “shortly,” and you are told, “Hey, I just spoke to them, and they should be with you in less than 30 minutes”, so you wait. And Wait, And Wait.

If you have to decide for yourself, at what point do you give up waiting, before making some decisions? Hey, it’s your choice, it’s your agenda.

But when you, as the customer service representative, are responsible for your customers’ needs, when do you look out for their best interest? These people who trust YOU by doing business with YOU. When do you step up and represent THEIR needs?

I get it; hindsight is 20/20. It is so easy after the fact to say what could have been done better. But, I think it reflects on their corporate culture. So tied to policies and procedures and systems and methods of what we do, how we do, and why we do, that when things go wrong, we cite corporate standard operating procedures, by uttering those horrendous three words, “It’s our Policy!” Meanwhile, as in this case, we are treating our “passengers like pieces of luggage.”

In any non-crisis situation, businesses need to provide their customers with options. I suggest, coming up with three, customer-centric options in any given situation. In this case, after 90 minutes, the company could have come up with:

  • Disembark, grab a bite to eat – “here are some meal vouchers….. we’ll text you when we are ready to board.”
  • Disembark, and “we’ll help you rebook the rest of your flights, and connections, and cover accommodations at no cost.”
  • Stay on board; “we’ll order Domino’s, and get going as fast as possible.”

The magic of providing three options is that it gives your customer the sense of control. It gives them a feeling that they are a part of the solution and they, not you, pick an option that is best for them.

“If it’s not impossible, what would it take?”

I know, some of you are reading this saying, “you don’t understand the logistics of clearing customs, securing luggage, blah, blah blah.” AND YOU ARE RIGHT, I don’t know the logistics involved. But, like your passengers, I DON’T CARE! When Air Transit says it was focused on avoiding logistical and financial challenges, I take huge exception, because THAT should not have been their primary concern.

Here’s the one question I ask, whenever someone uses excuses as to why something can’t be done, I ask, “If it’s not impossible, what would it take?” Assume this question whenever you have a challenging situation. (i.e. If it is not impossible to make my passengers happy, what would it take?)

Had Air Transat taken that question as a core value within their culture, do you think the situation would have been as bad as it was? Do you think that maybe, just maybe, they would have earned their customers loyalty and trust that was given to them in the first place?

What processes or policies do you have in place that squashes guest experience, satisfaction and expectations?

Marc is a service expert and a master of experiences. He's also an author, speaker, facilitator and coach. He will help your teams ignite their passions, enable your leaders to recentre their focus, and drive continuous improvement through connected and engaged employees. This will allow you to realize your competitive advantage with a connected purpose and consistency of customer experience across your brand. He will dare your people to cultivate a generous attitude and lead with love and kindness first.

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