Business Needs to Get it Right More Often

I am just now feeling the effects of the cold or infection settling in. I traveled from Boston to LA this past week and suffered through another airline ordeal. An ordeal that has everything to do with workflow IQ and business process gone bad. Actually, the entire trip was full of good and bad examples where workflow is concerned.

Workflow = Customer Experience

Let me make this point abundantly clear: your workflow is your product/service and it is what your customer experiences. Not to be taken lightly, how you approach workflow predetermines what your customers will hold, feel, see, hear, etc.

My trip from California to Boston began well enough except that I encountered two poor workflow executions in a row. First off, United has a policy that you have to check in 45 minutes before the flight. When I asked if all airlines were now following this rule or law, the agent said that other airlines were following the 30 minute rule. I had to carry my baggage on to the plane as a result of being within 40 minutes. Secondly, TSA has decided that they are going to examine ID with a scope of some sort. This new trick adds several minutes while waiting in line. Did anyone know United had this unique policy? Is it just me? Am I the only one who was surprised to see TSA agents scrutinizing ID? Where have I been living???

The return trip is the one that I want to point to as a great lesson to learn from. Awaiting our take-off from Logan International Airport, we learned that caterers had jammed the food cart into the door and broke the door. It’s an airplane folks! Is there a higher-quality way to get food in a plane? Knowing that the opportunity exists to break the door of a plane with a heavy cart, can someone – an engineer perhaps – come up with a safer way to feed us mini-pretzels?

We then learned that American Airlines brass didn’t keep spare parts at the airport and that it couldn’t be fixed. Supply-chain and inventory basics would indicate that keeping an inventory of parts at international hubs might be a good idea. The icing – really – was learning from our pilot that while an identical plane sat at the gate next to us un-used, we would be waiting for a plane to come from Puerto Rico. Huh?! Even the pilot shared how stunned he was that his “higher-ups” preferred we wait 5 hours for another plane. The plane at the gate next door, by the way, sat there all night with a perfectly good replacement part.

We left late. So late, in fact, that my 11pm arrival time turned into a 5am arrival. Sitting in coach, I didn’t sleep a wink. Hence the illness setting in.

Arriving at LAX, Avis supplied me with a rental car at a low rate ($45) at 5am and let me drive it home 150 miles away and leave it another airport. No extra charge. That’s service.

Thrifty Rental Car – my first stop in renting a car to get home, lied to me saying every rental company charges $125 drop-off fee when you take a car to another airport one-way. They also lied when they said Avis wasn’t open 24 hours. Lying in the process of trying to rent somebody a car is a really bad idea.

Look through your business and customer service and see if you can’t find examples of bad service and examples of good. Now look at those examples as evidence of your workflow and business process.

What to do?

How could United and the TSA have modified their workflow to include a customer communication plan? How could American Airlines have changed their process to avoid broken doors when loading a plane with drinks and pretzels? How could they have changed their parts inventory at a huge international hub? Their crisis maintenance procedures when spare parts are at the next gate? Their process that allows pilots to decide for themselves what the solution is? Why was someone in “corporate” over-ruling a pilot at midnight making he and his crew stay awake an extra 6 hours? How could Thrifty better train and supervise their sales people so they don’t have to lie to customers? What is it about their marketing and sales and car inventory process they could change to be more competitive with Avis at LAX?

Where business is concerned, these issues are life and death matters. None of these companies can afford a disaffected customer. Can you?

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