Turning Around Customer Perceptions with Actionable Insights

Have you ever been stranded in an airport for reasons other than a weather issue? Airlines are systematically wrecking havoc on their customer’s lives through insufficient crews set up to man flights with no feasible CRM systems in place. Recently, I was traveling from North Carolina to New York on a popular airline for a family function to be held later that afternoon. I booked an early morning flight, which was set to department RDU airport bright and early at 5:30 am and scheduled to arrive at LaGuardia Airport at 8:30 am. Leaving approximately 8 hours until the event.

When I arrived at the airport two hours prior to my flight (3:30 am) and made it through security once they opened up at 4:30 am, my phone rang from an 800 number.  I answered the phone to hear a recording stating that my flight had been delayed and would no longer be departing at 5:30 am, but, instead at 6:15 am due to delayed arrival of the flight crew.  Although this method of CRM would normally be effective, with the new security guidelines in place for airports, being informed one hour prior to your flight means it is more than likely you are already at the airport.

With no other alternative, I proceeded to the relevant departure gate to wait.  At 6:15 am the flight marquee changed once again, indicating that the flight was now cancelled because the flight crew was unavailable.  As over 150 passengers became disgruntled and everyone pointed out how their plans were now ruined for their cruise trips, connecting international flights, important business meetings and family functions that they would now inevitably miss and so on. The boarding staff now worked to contain this hostile crowd and find them alternative means of getting to their destinations.

The airline tried to accommodate passengers by rerouting them on other flights within their airlines and other airlines as well. In my case, I was traveling with a small child and there were no flights with two seats available on anything that would get me to New York in time for the event.

It seemed, I had no other choice but to camp out at the airport gate and wait 6 hours for the next available flight to New York that had two seats.  Just then, my mobile rang, "Ma'am, this is Jennifer, I can see on my computer that you have missed your flight to NYC and are traveling with a child. We're very sorry to put you in this situation and would like to offer you two passes for the Platinum Lounge until the departure time for your flight, all facilities and meals will be complimentary. We would also like to upgrade you to first class for your trip to New York and back!"

"That's OK, but, I will be late for my family function!" I responded.

"Oh!..Let me coordinate with the team in LaGuardia, they'll ensure you can disembark the flight and be transported to your family gathering in the shortest time possible," Jennifer said emphatically. 

Holistic customer view
Unfortunately, there were many passengers that could not be given restitution - they were missing cruise ships and could not reschedule time off work to take a different cruise. One woman was a bridesmaid at a wedding and there was no way she would get to her destination until the next day. The airline tried its best to keep everyone as happy as possible under the current circumstances, I'm sure their CRM software played a big role in identifying the optimal solution for each passenger's issues. I could tell a lot of their frequent customers and other international travelers were offered discounts and coupons that would compromise for the airlines poor performance on this particular day. 

While being driven to my family gathering in the airline's limousine, I wondered, although, the airline made attempts to diminish the anguish of a cancelled flight, the restitution definitely did not compensate for the lost time. 

It would be interesting to find out how many of the over 150 passengers whose plans were ruined that day have returned to this airline for other flights - regardless of the freebies and pampering offered to each, consumers rarely forget a negative customer experience.