Are you doing stupid things to your customers?

American EagleFlying back from a speaking engagement in Ann Arbor last week, I changed planes in Chicago. I boarded the American Eagle flight at the appointed time. We sat at the gate for nearly half an hour after departure time when the co-pilot came on the intercom.

“Ladies and gentleman, the reason we haven’t taken off is we have no pilot. Our pilot called in sick and we’ve notified an on-call pilot. We expect him to be here shortly.”

Half an hour later, we are told the pilot had arrived and we’ll be taking off soon.

So what’s wrong with this picture? Crew must report in at least a half hour before departure time. So flight management knew there was no pilot at minimum 30 minutes beforehand, even if the scheduled pilot hadn’t called in. So why would they board us all, and let us sit like sardines in a little plane with no food or drink or Internet access for 30 minutes when we could have been more comfortable in the waiting area?

It couldn’t have anything to do with on-time departure ratings, as they knew we couldn’t push back without a pilot. So what were they thinking? That this was a good way to treat their customers? How could anyone possibly think this was a good idea?

Bill of RightsWith JetBlue‘s new Customer Bill of Rights policy, we would have had to sit there over an hour before getting any compensation. I think sitting in a crammed plane at a gate is close to cruel and unusual punishment, and I was only stuck for an hour. I can’t imagine how those passengers on JetBlue lasted 11 hours. I would have chewed my way out the emergency exit.

Are you doing stupid things to your customers without thinking? Once someone saw it was going to be an hour before takeoff, couldn’t they have seen the folly of our boarding and invited us to deplane for that hour?

Are you empowering your people to think through what the customer is experiencing and make on-the-spot decisions to help ease their discomfort? Are you rewarding behavior that shows your people are thinking of creating a positive customer experience instead of a negative one?

Consider eliciting examples for stupid customer service behaviors so others can learn what happened and discuss alternatives if the situation presents itself again. If you hide the mistakes, no one will learn how to avoid them in the future.

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