Airlines Don’t Care. Does Your Business Care About Customer Experience?

Airlines Don’t Care – Does Your Business Care About Customer Experience?

As business owners, there will be a time where not meeting a customer’s needs will manifest. It’s not a matter of if, it is a matter of when a bad customer experience can occur.

The meltdown can be avoided! Instead of a meltdown, I recommend being masterfully proactive in your damage control.

So what now? What do I have to do to avoid the probable customer meltdown?

The questions then become:

  • What is the worst case customer scenario?
  • How can your company’s integrity be maintained?
  • What is the best resolution for the situation?
  • How could it have been prevented?
  • What is the best possible outcome for your customer?

The most important question:

        What can I do NOW to make my disgruntled customer a raving fan?

Here is what can happen when you don’t prepare because you don’t care – and what you can do about it NOW.

I recently decided to join a women’s breakthrough leadership retreat in Hawaii. After 6 months of non-stop change and growth I needed to regroup. Fortunately, I had the ability to make the time and the investment in me.

I spent a great deal of time planning this adventure. I booked my flights with care and consideration. I was fully vested in this trip.

Here is a truth for you – your customers are vested in you/your business both monetarily and energetically. By that I mean they have expended a great deal of time and energy to get to the point of doing business with you. Do your employees and partner providers get it?

Now I want to share with you how a simple thing can snowball into a catastrophic event!

So here comes…….

Part 1 – start of the trip

I got up early, left early and arrived early for my flight from Dallas. I was notified by the carrier that my flight was delayed by 20 minutes once I was checked in at the airport. I went to the counter and inquired if the delay was going to pose a problem for my connecting flight from LA to Maui. She told me to not worry, it was not a problem. Good information?

Part 2 – a customer experience failure

Even though we were 20 minutes late taking off we made up 15 minutes. Was told the plane was waiting for us…not to worry. But …. we landed and the connecting plane was gone! We were only 5 minutes late and the next plane could not wait. No – Bad information.

Lesson: check your facts before making promises

Part 3 – another failure

Because I was the only single person traveling to Hawaii, it was decided (not by me) that my schedule was expendable so that the airline could meet the needs of the greatest number of guests. So, I was bumped from my airline where I had purchased priority seating and baggage and a seat upgrade! Oops – No More!

  • I now have a voucher for another airline (no seats, no ticket)
  • So I have to fetch my large checked in bag from baggage claim
  • Then I have to move to another terminal
  • And – the new airline ticket counter is not open

Lesson: When you transfer customer care to another provider, the customer still expects your level of care and the value they have come to rely on from your company. Also, when you remove your ownership of the customer experience you remove control over your brand value and promise you have so carefully crafted.

WHO CARES is the message the customer gets.

Part 4 – and another failure

When I called the other airline to find out when the ticket counter would open I was told by the reservation specialist that they are always open! She would not believe me when I told her that no one was at the counter.

Then she tells me that they moved to another terminal so that is where everyone must be. This is LAX, that terminal is over a mile away, so I have to catch a shuttle, with my big bag and with a bad knee. At this point I am 0 for 20 on the correct information I have been given by all parties.

Oops – no one is at that terminal – let’s try again back to the first terminal

Notice that:

  • No one knows what is happening,
  • No one cares about you.
  • There are no signs – I had to call

Part 5 – and yet another failure

After 4.5 hours of waiting at the ticket counter, a couple of employees show up. But they are still not open. Now there are about 10 people waiting to hand their luggage over so they can go through security. To say it was a comedy show behind the counter is saying it mildly. I am the first person to agree people that love their jobs are happier and healthier employees. These employees appeared to be happy – sitting on counters half in and half out of uniform, and guffawing loudly in front of clients. This isn’t the best model for the customer experience.

Lesson: When you are at work you are representing your company. Your customer does not know if you on duty of off duty.

Part 6 – wow – another failure

I had to pay a second time for my luggage. And I had to pay a second time for a seat to accommodate my bad knee.

Lesson: The consideration to disregard (abdicate responsibility) does not just affect one problem, it affects All the Following Problems. They cascade from the original. Plan ahead for failure.

Part 7 – one more failure

The flight with the new carrier was not to my original destination, it was to another island and I had to hop another flight to get me to the conference.

And the original customer experience failures –

Do you see now how this all cascaded from the first problems? The planned changeover was too short. The second flight was overbooked and left early. The other two flights to my destination were also overbooked.


I got up at midnight Hawaii time expecting to arrive at 11:30 AM. I actually arrived at 11:30 PM – 12 hours later! Who cares? The airline sure didn’t.

Then – some Excellent Customer Experience

They were there waiting for me! The conference people had waited since noon and were still there with transportation at 11:30 PM – with a smile. Now THAT is excellent customer service.

More Lessons

What can we learn from this cascade of failures in customer experience (it’s not just the airlines)?

  • Each failure point could have been handled differently by an empowered, informed employee and had a much different outcome.
  • This resulted from employees who are not empowered.
  • This did not have to be painful for the customer
  • We have not even acknowledged the emotional customer journey here – this is where raving fans turn into negative billboards and haters for your brand.
  • Do your employees care?
  • Are your employees informed about the state of your business and your customer’s place in your business?
  • Is your business value based on the Dollars your customers spend?
  • Is your business value based on repeat customers?

I challenge you to use this document in your business to start the customer experience discussion with:

  1. Look at each failure point and come up with a unique solution that does 2 things:
  • Make your customers feel valued
  • Have your company act on it’s own values
  1. Answer this question: “In your opinion, did the airlines do everything in their power to provide a good, better, best or poor customer experience?”
  1. Turn the discussion on the customer experience towards your company: How are all of you going to enhance your customer experience?

I am interested in your feedback and ideas. Please email me at: