Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Is This REALLY What They Had In Mind?

Let me be honest right up front. I HATE dealing with the airlines. Business travel always sounds glamorous, but it really is not. It’s physically and emotionally draining. And pleasure travel is not much better.

But the airlines… Oh, the airlines. They make all of the other pain seem like a trip to Disneyland. It’s like they are trying to make your life miserable.

It used to be that boarding was done from the back of the plane. Of course, first class and frequent flyers boarded first. I had no problem with that. Even before I earned the privilege I understood the concept of giving benefits to your best customers. But they didn’t really board from the back. Instead, they would call out rows and anyone who wanted to would board. They made no attempt to control who boarded, so what would happen would be that you would get in line and then stand there while the guy in 15B stashed all of his stuff, nowhere near the back of the plane. Of course, he wasn’t alone. Many others did the same thing, pretty well screwing up any chance you had of boarding efficiently.

Then they changed the boarding process to board by zones. “This makes sense,” I thought. “They will probably hit window areas first, back of the plane, etc.” But it didn’t take long for me to figure out that I was in the last group to be boarded, and I was by the window, so my seat mates all had to get out of their seats to let me in. Once again, I wasn’t alone. This happened up and down the plane creating all kinds of blockages. Or course the flight attendants were walking through the cabin closing overhead bins that were “full”. Except most of them weren’t full. And people were desperately looking for a place to store their luggage and had to keep opening the same compartments again and again.

It’s like they are trying to make things tough on their passengers.

Then, in a moment of undisputed brilliance they started charging extra to check your bag through. And it wasn’t a minimum amount, like $5. No, it was $20 per bag. And $25 or $30 each if you wanted to check a second bag.

The response to this from passengers was obvious. People stopped checking bags. Instead, they carried more and more things onto the plane, making that boarding process even more torturous. On one flight I checked my suitcase but carried on my laptop. When I stored my laptop in the overhead bin I found myself challenged by a flight attendant. It seems those overhead bins are reserved for people with two carry-ons.

“So,” I said, “I paid more to check my bag and that entitles me to LESS space on the airplane? I don’t think so“, I said as I sat down, my bag still in the overhead bin.

It’s like they are trying to take advantage of those people who paid extra.

And this isn't just with me personally. Others have worse stories to tell. In fact one of their passengers did just that. Follow this link for the video “United breaks guitars”.

It’s like they try to anger their passengers.

But in the context of this blog, what exactly is the point?

Simple. At ECI Learning Systems we talk about how your corporate culture drives your decision making process, and how the synergy between that culture, the leadership styles, and the employee expectations creates the energy that runs your business. So what is the culture in these airlines (and it’s not just United) that they make decisions that appear to be so “anti-customer”? Does anyone really believe that the executives sat around and consciously tried to create a culture that was so anti-customer?

But somehow, they did. Somehow they created an environment where decision after decision makes their customer experience worse. I’m far from alone in hating the airlines. In fact, I’ve yet to speak to anyone who enjoys their customer experience with any of the major airlines.

Here is the big question. If the airlines have created this type of toxic customer service experience, have other businesses done the same? Has YOUR business unwittingly created an environment where decisions are being made that are hurting your business?

If you do not know exactly what your customers are thinking about you, it’s time that you found out. If you don’t know what decisions your culture is driving, it’s time that you found out. If you are not sure how your employees are representing your business, it’s time that you found out.

Contact ECI Learning today and discover how your company culture is driving your business.

Until next time….

Dave Meyer
ECI Learning Systems, LLC

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