The Airline Experience II

The Airline Experience II


Power and might belong to our God forever and ever Amen…..” Out of the darkness and dead silence came this song from some ladies at the back of the plane. I believe they meant well, hoping it would lessen the fear, rather it intensified my anxiety. Journey with me as I relive part two of this interesting airline encounter.

I am Ahimaa (pronounced a: hi: maa), a Customer Experience (CX) Management Consultant and a CX enthusiast. Join me in exploring the CX learning points of this experience.

To my dismay, the shuttle buses sent us to the boarding gate instead of the arrival hall which I was hoping for. The ground crew announced that further information would be provided on the next steps; as to whether the flight would be postponed or wait out the weather and return to Kumasi. The latter was not my preferred option, I literally needed days to recover from that traumatic experience.

The ride to the boarding gate was an interesting one; with passengers narrating their experiences in different degrees of fear and exaggeration amidst laughter. At the boarding gate we met another group of passengers waiting to fly, possibly the last flight for the day. They found our story and experiences interesting and concluded their flight would be canceled. Whilst others hoped the flight would resume, mine was for the flight to be canceled.

With no sign of refreshments from the airline, we gathered around the only snack bar that was open. Some passengers took guinness and beer to celebrate their escape from the “near-death experience”. I settled for plantain chips and water to replace the Kafta feast which never was.

After quite a protracted wait, the airline announced that they needed to contact head office for the next steps.

Again, we waited and waited and waited.

Eventually, we were told to go to the departure hall for the next steps.

At the departure hall, we were faced with two scenes of chaos.
Chaotic scene one was a disorderly situation of luggage strewn in one corner of the departure hall with only one airline staff assisting passengers in identifying their luggage. Chaotic scene two was a long winding queue of pandemonium; a queue to enquire about the next steps.

Our options were either book a place in the queue by joining and asking the person in front or behind to hold your spot whilst you go luggage hunting or complete the hunt and join the queue which was getting longer by the second. I opted for the former as that was the lesser of the two mayhems and I needed to secure my luggage.

As I joined the queue the cause of the pandemonium became evident; There was only one airline staff in the enquiry booth attending to two different groups of passengers; angry, hungry, tired, and frustrated passengers.

The queue morphed into a chaotic rowdy bunch of humans. Passengers kept cutting in and those already in the queue were not ready to budge. It was a sight for sore eyes and felt like we were queuing for the last breath on Earth.

After what seemed like an hour of inching forward, there was an announcement of two early morning flights the next day at 5 am, interested passengers were asked to form another queue, it was more of a swarm of human beings than a queue. Thankfully this reduced the queue and brought me right in front of the enquiry booth.

As the reason for traveling was no longer relevant, my need was for a refund. The response was “Please send an email”. I was stunned, so basically, I wasted three hours in the airport for this simple response. Angry, hungry and frustrated, I paid for airport parking, drove home and was in bed by midnight. I had never been that grateful for my bed than that day.

Though I wasted approximately ten hours of my life that day (from the drive to the airport through to returning home), I had an interesting #airlineexperience with great CX nuggets that are worth sharing. The glass must always be half full and not half empty.

REFLECTIONS – Customer Experience Management (CXM) as a Business Transformation Tool

• #Datacollection should not be perfunctory. In this case, passenger data collected during ticketing should be relevant and in a form that can be used across functional areas of the airline.
• #Digitalization is fundamental to enhancing processes and customers’ experiences. This is effectively achieved by leveraging technology to create value from data collected; In the story, passengers should have received messages via SMS, WhatsApp and emails from the airline with the options available right at disembarkment. Queuing for such simple information is needless in this era of #digitaltransformation. Effective use of digitalization leads to #operationalefficiency.
• Frequent #customerinsight programs are essential to learning from #servicefailures. Integrating insights into processes simultaneously enhances customers’ journeys which leads to #valuecreation for both parties. Additionally, customer insight programs illuminate employees’ challenges, and when these challenges are addressed enhanced #employeeexperience is achieved. In this experience, I believe there was a #frontlinestaffempowerment challenge.
• When service delivery fails, apologizing may not always be sufficient for #servicerecovery and show of #empathy. A token for affected customers goes a long way in deepening #customerloyalty and #repeatbusiness. In this story, I daresay simple refreshments such as water or light snacks for passengers who waited for two and a half hours for their flight and did two hours in the air in futility was not too much of an ask.
“The true test of a business’ customer service effort is not when things are going but rather what is done when things go wrong” Steve Ferrante