I was stuck on the tarmac in Dallas yesterday with my daughter, as American Airlines tried to sort out an issue with the plane. The plane was hot and uncomfortable, yet the flight attendants did nothing to help — no information, no offer of water, nothing — they hung out together at the front of the plane. The only interaction that I saw with a flight attendant was a mean interchange with an understandably frustrated passenger. There were also long gaps of time without any information from the pilot about our situation.
What’s missing? Empathy. Employees didn’t care about the passengers’ experiences.
No airline can completely eliminate issues (like mechanical problems) that cause delays, but they have complete control over how they respond and deal with passengers. It was almost as if the American pilots and flight attendants had no idea how to deal with this situation. That’s unacceptable. If a company can anticipate situations, then they must prepare effective service recovery processes. Employees should be trained (as well as measured, incented, and celebrated) to mitigate these types of situations.
American Airlines should learn our C.A.R.E.S. model of service recovery:
- Communication (clearly communicate the process and set expectations)
- Accountability (take responsibility for fixing the problem or getting an answer)
- Responsiveness (don’t make the customer wait for your communication or a solution)
- Empathy (acknowledge the impact that the situation has on the customer)
- Solution (at the end of the day, make sure to solve the issue or answer the question)
I went online to send American a comment about the experience, but the poor customer experience continued on their Website. Here’s the form that American provided…
Does this look like a genuine request for feedback? The screen is full of stuff that passengers need to fill in BEFORE American will accept any feedback. Why do they need my full address in order to hear that I had a terrible experience.
And, if you look at the upper right hand part of the screen (where you can see my name), American already knows that it’s me. So they already have most of the information that they want me to fill in. With such a terrible system for collecting feedback, it’s not likely that American learns much from its passengers.
Here’s the summary: American treated hundreds of passengers poorly by locking them in a hot plane with no information and no service, and puts significant hurdles in the way of hearing about it.
The bottom line: Service recovery needs to be an institutional skill for airlines