When things go wrong – What will you do?

How did I get so lucky? I flew American Airlines this week – but on Monday. One day before thousands of flights were canceled to comply with an FAA Maintenance requirement. Were I not so lucky, this is all the information that I would have received from the American Airlines’ website:

“We are very sorry for inconveniencing you with the cancellation of a portion of American Airlines’ flights which started on April 8. Additional inspections of our MD-80 fleet are being conducted to ensure precise and complete compliance with the FAA’s directive related to wiring in the aircraft’s wheel wells. For more information about the progress of the inspections, please check our Press Releases. Please be assured that safety of our customers is, and always will be, American’s first priority. For more information about your flight, please check Gates & Times. “

Thanks, but no thanks! I am sure that you are sorry. And I know that this is an extremely stress-filled situation. An airline can not jeopordize passenger safety. But… what about the information break-down? What options do I have? Please direct me to a web-page where I can determine my options for alternative travel.

Here are some comments from the aviation.com website about this “break-down:”

“This writer was one of the thousands of passengers on American who was grounded. I found out about American’s cancellations because, as a journalist, I receive AA press releases. Other passengers were not so lucky: Many didn’t get any heads-up notification about the problems.

I was fortunate. Arpey acknowledged that many AA customers were not notified promptly or at all; some arrived at the airport only to discover that their flight was not going anywhere. “Our employees did the best they could. We apologize for the inconvenience. We did try to reach them,” said Arpey. He didn’t explain how communications broke down, or what American will do differently should cancellations continue in the coming days.”

Look at the televised news reports. See the long lines of frustrated customers waiting (not so) patiently for the chance to talk to a ticket agent. Try to call the airlines reservations number – all circuits are busy; Your business is important to us, please continue to hold…

Where is the technology to help customers obtain information?

One news shot showed a bank of idle ticketing “kiosks” in the middle of a sea of angry, displaced customers. Are the ticketing kiosks only programmed as “dumb terminals?” Can they only spit out boarding passes once you supply them with your ID for a current reservation?

Customers want options. Unfortunately, very few businesses offer these options. Customers are quite willing to “help themselves” if only your business will allow them to do so.Customers want to help you when there is a problem – but you have to provide them some “self-help” options.

Imagine… A similar situation happens in your business. A product recall, a sudden delay in shipping your products, a fire, a flood, etc. It is not a question of “if “these things happen” (to you.) It is a question of “when” something like this happens.

What is your customer recovery program? What options will you give your customers when an emergency hits?

  • If only those poor stranded passengers could go to a kiosk and choose from several options to select travel alternatives.
  • If only they could use their smart-phones or laptops to go to a special website to choose from several options to select travel alternatives.
  • If only they could register their mobile phone numbers or email addresses so that the airline could send them a voice mail or text message giving them the current status of their itinerary or offering additional options.
  • If only…

I suppose that I am dreaming. After all, it still takes more time for my luggage to come down the chute in baggage claim than it does to fly from SFO to LAX. It amazes me that this “bottleneck” remains a problem – and customer irritation!

What proactive plans do you have in place at your business to handle your next customer emergency?How can you program your website to be proactive and interactive when your next customer emergency occurs?Let us know. Add your comments below.

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