It’s Time … Not a Closet

December 19th, 2013   •   no comments   

Getting the Most Out of How We Use Time

Time Management Dr Ariane DavidIt’s a funny thing about closet space, the more we have, the more we fill. And, when we run out of space we think, I need more closet space or I need a clever way of stuffing more into the space I have.

So we refold, reorganize, vacuum seal and even throw some stuff away.

Sometimes, a week later we discover that we really wish we had some of the stuff we got rid of.

Time is Like Closet Space

Time is like closet space: we fill up the time we have, discover we haven’t enough, and start reorganizing and dumping, all the while getting more and more stressed. Complete Article: Time Management

@AmericanAir – American Airlines War On the Consumer

March 11th, 2013   •   1 comment   

A few weeks ago American chef, Anthony Bourdain, began a Twitter rant against American Airlines. The reason? Yet another delayed flight.

@Bouradain’s complaint wasn’t just about the delay but also about the way that American Airlines handled it.

As American Airlines tends to do, it left stranded passengers without useful information about the status of the flight.

The Twittersphere was humming and passengers were in rebellion mode. This can’t be a good for the brand, especially for an airline that’s in bankruptcy.

Yet, brand building seems to be the last thing @AmericanAir worries about, as the two incidents below demonstrate.

How American Airlines Stole Christmas Twice

Dr Ariane David How American Airlines Stole ChristmasDon B. wanted to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle on Christmas Eve, 2012. He was looking forward to spending the holidays with his family whom he hadn’t seen in some time.

In October he made reservations for himself and a friend using American Airlines‘ online reservation site.

The site was difficult to use, froze up and lost his data a number of times.

It took Don, a veteran web developer, five tries to successfully enter his information, but finally the reservations went through, and confirmation was sent to his email address.

The day before the flight Don tried to check in online, but he got an error message saying simply that he’d have to check in at the airport.

There was no indication of what the problem was. He thought nothing of it and went to the American Airlines counter to check in the next day.

No Information Available

The person at the counter reiterated that there was a problem with his reservations, but she couldn’t give him any information. He would have to call American Airlines central reservation desk and speak with them directly.

Since they had no direct phone line that he could use, he had to use his cell phone.

Only when he called did he find out the problem: both seats were in his friend’s name (remember the glitchy reservation web site?).

Don’s friend could travel in whichever of the two reserved seats she wished, but he would have to buy a new ticket if there was room on the plane (of course there was room – he had two tickets!)

Don asked to speak a supervisor. The supervisor’s opening salvo was a scolding to Don for the quality of the cell phone transmission. The call went downhill from there.

Don explained that the error was with American Airlines’ web site. They were obviously aware that he was the main passenger, since all travel information was addressed to him, and not to his friend with the two seats.

Cancelled!

But the supervisor, unrelenting in her abrasiveness, said, no matter, the onus is on the customer to catch the error. He could still fly that night, however, he would have to buy a new ticket. Don said OK. But the price she quoted was far in excess of what he’d already paid.

He ended up passing on her offer and missed the Christmas family reunion.

There’s more. Don’s son, who had flown to Seattle for Christmas, decided to come to Los Angeles to visit Don. He got up at 4:00 a.m. to board the 6:30 a.m. Alaska Air flight that took him to San Francisco and would connect to his 9:30 a.m. American Airlines flight on to Los Angeles.

Passengers Got Their Information from their Phones .. NOT American Airlines

The flight boarded, taxied, but was forced to return to the terminal. The cause was a mystery to the passengers and the airline wasn’t telling.

The flight was delayed one hour, two hours, four hours…eight hours…the passengers waited for information.

Those who had access to smart phones were able to get some information online.

After nines hours the flight finally took off.

It Wasn’t What Happened…It Was How American Airlines Handled It

Airplanes are complicated things: stuff happens to them. Better delay than death. But once again delay was not the only issue. Equally important was how American Airlines handled it.

The flight wasn’t delayed because of weather, or war or extraterrestrial hanky panky: the flight was delayed as a result of an internal problem with American Airlines.

It would not have required magical thinking to expect the airline to offer passengers some comfort during the nine hours.

They recieved a single breakfast voucher immediately upon deplaning (had the passengers known they’d be stranded for so long they could have eaten their Fruit Loops one at a time and made them last the whole day).

Live Twitter Feed #AmericanAirlines

Nine Hours Later

Dr Ariane David How American Airlines Stole Christmas
You have to wonder what would make an airline hold their customers captive for the equivalent of a whole working day without useful information.

Certainly it was evident early on to American Airlines that this wasn’t a one hour glitch, so did they consciously misrepresented the severity of the problem and the duration of the delay?

A strategic move perhaps: by parcelling out snippets of worthless information they were able to keep most of the passengers close to their own gate and not on other airlines.

My guess is that if the passengers had known right off the bat how long the delay was projected to be, there would have been a stampede to other airlines,  and that would have been expensive for American Airlines.

Don and his friend subsequently wrote to fifteen different American Airlines executives to relate their story and that of his son. Interestingly, out of all those letters, the only reply came from Steve Lasner on behalf of American Airlines’s general counsel, Gary Kennedy.

When a Corporate Attorney Answers a Customer Service Question…the Customer Must Be The Enemy

Why would a company who valued its customers answer a first-contact customer service issue through their corporate attorney? The answer is, they wouldn’t. Only a company who saw customers as a threat would do that.

Mr. Lasner explained that American Airlines is not responsible for their web site: “when a you buy tickets online you’re acting as your own travel agent” and problems are the responsibility of the customer, not American Airlines.

This refrain was too familiar. (I find myself wondering what American Airlines would do if suddenly all customers booked by phone.)

And yet the communication from Mr. Lasner did not have to be the disaster it was. The only thing he needed to do for Don and his friend was to show that he – that American Airlines – cared. But clearly caring for customers is not an American Airlines priority.

Sadly, there may not be any relief in sight for customers with the upcoming American Airlines-US Airways merger. In a sense it’s an understandable pairing given that these two airlines seem to be vying for he same top spots in the Department of Transportation’s list of the most complained-about US-based airlines.

American Airlines Ranks as the Third Worst Airline in Customer Service

Dr Ariane David How American Airlines Stole ChristmasIn 2012 American Airlines ranked third worst out of sixteen; US Airways ranked fourth, an improvement over their 2011 rank of second most-complained-about airline.

In a recent letter to customers, American Airlines CEO Thomas Horton raved about the great variety of travel options that would be available to passengers due to this merger, yet he managed to say not a word about improved customer service. This is not reassuring to American Airlines regulars.

Contrast that to Southwest Airlines who regularly ranks as America’s least complained about airline. They herd you, they box you, and finally funnel you down a chute to scramble for seats, and somehow it’s OK, because you get the feeling that Southwest likes you. Now that’s brand management.

Dr Ariane David How American Airlines Stole Christmas

I suspect that American Airlines will punish the reservations supervisor. It’s typical for organizations like American Airlines that eschew responsibility for the culture they created and harbor to blame minor functionaries for manifesting that culture.

@BevGoulet
@PeterWarlick
@SteveLasner
@GaryKennedy
@AmericanAir
@bourdain
#bourdain
#americanairlines

American Airlines’ Brand: War Against the Customer

March 5th, 2013   •   no comments   

A few weeks ago American chef, Anthony Bourdain, began a Twitter rant against American Airlines. The reason? Yet another delayed flight.But @Bouradain’s complaint was not only about the delay but also about the way that American Airlines handled it: as American Airlines tends to do, it left stranded passengers without useful information about the status of the flight.

The passengers just had to sit there and wait.

By the time American Airlines did communicate anything substantive the Twittersphere was humming and passengers were in rebellion mode. This can’t be a good for the brand, especially for an airline that’s in bankruptcy.

Yet, brand building seems to be the last thing American Airlines worries about, as the two incidents below demonstrate.

How American Airlines Stole Christmas

Dr Ariane David How American Airlines Stole ChristmasThe passenger, Don, wanted to fly from Los Angeles to Seattle on Christmas Eve, 2012, to spend the holidays with his family whom he hadn’t seen in some time.

In October he made reservations for himself and a friend using American Airlines’ online reservation site. The site was difficult to use, freezing up and losing data a number of times.

It took Don, a veteran web developer, five tries to successfully enter his information, but finally the reservations went through, and confirmation was sent to him.

The day before the flight Don tried to check in online, but he got an error message saying simply that he’d have to check in at the airport. There was no indication of what the problem was. He thought nothing of it and went to the American airlines counter to check in the next day.

The person at the counter reiterated that there was a problem with his reservations, but she couldn’t give him any information. He would have to call American Airlines central reservation desk and speak with them directly. Since they had no direct phone line that he could use, he had to use his cell phone.

Only when he called did he find out the problem: both seats were in his friend’s name (remember the glitchy reservation web site?). The friend could travel in whichever of the two reserved seats she wished, but he would have to buy a new ticket if there was room on the plane.

Don asked to speak a supervisor. The supervisor’s opening salvo was a scolding to Don for the quality of the cell phone transmission. The call went downhill from there.

Don explained that the error was with American Airlines’ web site. They were obviously aware that he was the main passenger, since all travel information was addressed to him, and not to his friend with the two seats.

But the supervisor, unrelenting in her abrasiveness, said, no matter, the onus is on the customer to catch the error. He could still fly that night, however, if he bought a new ticket. Don said OK. But the price she quoted was far in excess of what he’d already paid. He ended up passing on her offer and missed the Christmas family reunion.

There’s more. Don’s son, who had flown to Seattle for Christmas, decided to come to Los Angeles to visit Don. He got up at 4:00 a.m. to board the 6:30 a.m. Alaska Air flight that took him to San Francisco and would connect to his 9:30 a.m. American Airlines flight on to Los Angeles.

Passengers Got Their Information from their Phones .. NOT American Airlines

The flight boarded, taxied, but was forced to return to the terminal. The cause was a mystery to the passengers and the airline wasn’t telling. The flight was delayed one hour, two hours, four hours .. eight hours .. the passengers waited for information. Those who had access to smart phones were able to get some information online. Finally, after a nine hour delay the flight finally took off.

Airplanes are complicated things: stuff happens to them. Better delay than death. But once again delay was not the only issue. Equally important was how American Airlines handled it.

The flight wasn’t delayed because of weather, or war or extraterrestrial hanky panky: the flight was delayed as a result of an internal problem with American Airlines.

It would not have required magical thinking to expect the airline to offer passengers some comfort during the nine hours – beyond the single breakfast voucher that they received immediately upon deplaning – or to give them some a snippet of truth to give them hope.

Don and his friend subsequently wrote to each of the American Airlines executives to relate their story and that of his son. Interestingly, out of all those letters, the only reply came from Steve Lasner on behalf of American Airlines’s general counsel, Gary Kennedy.

When a Corporate Attorney Answers a Customer Service Question .. the Customer Must Be The Enemy

Why would a company who valued its customers answer a first-contact customer service issue through their corporate attorney? The answer is, they wouldn’t. Only a company who saw customers as a threat would do that.

Mr. Lasner explained that American Airlines is not responsible for their web site: “when a you buy tickets online you’re acting as your own travel agent” and problems are the responsibility of the customer, not American Airlines.

This refrain was too familiar. (I find myself wondering what American Airlines would do if suddenly all customers booked by phone.)

And yet the communication from Mr. Lasner did not have to be the disaster it was. The only thing he needed to do for Don and his friend was to show that he – that American Airlines – cared. But clearly caring for customers is not an American airlines priority.

Sadly, there may not be any relief in sight for customers with the upcoming American Airlines-US Airways merger. In a sense it’s an understandable pairing given that these two airlines seem to be vying for he same top spots in the Department of Transportation’s list of the most complained-about US-based airlines.

American Airlines Ranks as the Third Worst Airline in Customer Service

Dr Ariane David How American Airlines Stole ChristmasIn 2012 American Airlines ranked third worst out of sixteen; US Airways ranked fourth, an improvement over their 2011 rank of second most-complained-about airline. In a recent letter to customers, American Airlines CEO Thomas Horton raved about the great variety of travel options that would be available to passengers due to this merger, yet he managed to say not a word about improved customer service. This is not reassuring to American airlines regulars.

Contrast that to Southwest Airlines who regularly ranks as America’s least complained about airline. They herd you, they box you, and finally funnel you down a chute to scramble for seats, and somehow it’s OK, because you get the feeling that Southwest likes you. Now that’s brand management.

PS: I suspect that American Airlines will punish the reservations supervisor. It’s typical for organizations like American Airlines that eschew responsibility for the culture they created and harbor to blame minor functionaries for manifesting that culture.

How to Implement Tough Business Decisions Without Getting Sued

January 10th, 2012   •   no comments   

Dr Ariane David Prevent Workplace Lawsuits

THE VISION:

A culture where employees don’t become plaintiffs.

When employees feel that they have no recourse, no power, and voice, they sue. It’s their only source of power and they only way of being heard. Create a culture in which employees feel empowered and heard.

» Create a culture in which employees feel that they can speak up and even complain, and where they feel they will be heard.

» Create a culture where employees feel that you are communicating with them.

» Create a culture of integrity where one standard fits all: everyone is held to the same values, even the boss.

» Remove blame; concentrate on behaviors and results not judgments.

» Treat all people with respect no matter how menial their work or how stupid their mistakes.

» Build trust by being trustworthy. Do what you say you’re going to do.

» Don’t be an arrogant, remote boss. Remember it’s easier to sue people you don’t like or respect.

THE PLAN:

Create a Crisis Plan for how you will handle lawsuits, whistle blowers, union threats, etc.

» Don’t wait for disaster to figure out what to do; have a plan and stick to it!

» Don’t trust difficult decisions to knee-jerk reactions.

THE CULTURE:

» Question your own assumptions /mental model about how you run your organization.

» Know what you want. The very first item on the agenda for organizational policy makers is to answer the question, “Do we really want a culture of open communication?

» Create official policies that promote integrity and communication. Employees know you’re serious when you make it official. Listen when people have a complaint.

» Respond openly and appropriately.

» Walk the talk. What you really do when an employee has a complaint will matter way more than what you say.

» Reward desirable behavior: you’ll get what you reward.

If you have any questions about how to prevent workplace lawsuits please send me a note from our contact page or email me at ADavid[at]theveritasgroup.com.