When I woke up at 3:00am Friday morning to begin my journey from Ottawa to Cairo, things were looking grim. -15C and very little visibility due to a giant snowstorm just beginning to hit the East coast. By the time I was sitting in the airplane for the Toronto-London Heathrow leg of the journey, it was even worse. Four hours we sat on the tarmac waiting to take off. We had to go through the de-icing process twice because the First Officer had spotted some ‘contamination’ on the tail (good for him!).
Adding four hours to an already long journey was not anyone’s idea of fun. But the pilot made a point of keeping everyone updated, and the cabin crew did their best to make people comfortable. I was impressed. After all, their work day had also just been extended by 4 hours.
By the time we took off, I already knew that I was going to miss my connection to Cairo. Not much I could do about it but wait and see what, if anything, Air Canada was going to do once I hit London. I’ve been through situations like this before, where weather causes huge disruptions, and hundreds (maybe thousands?) of passengers displaced. The stress level on anyone’s customer service infrastructure would be huge. Truthfully, I was expecting to find a bit of a schmozzle when I landed.
The schmozzle never appeared. What appeared instead, when the plane door finally opened in London, were three extraordinarily pleasant, smiling gate attendants. “Mr. Belding?” one said as I walked toward them. Wow. Psychic.
She handed me a sheet with my revised itinerary, and a coupon for hotel and transit. “If you will meet us once you’ve picked up your luggage, we will get you to a hotel for the night.” When I thanked her, she replied, “It’s the least we can do. After all, it’s our fault you missed your flight.”
Wow. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t Air Canada that created the giant snowstorm. Talk about taking ownership!
The way a company takes care of customers when there is a service failure plays a tremendous role in how customers perceive them. In fact, the Service Recovery Paradox tells us that people will actually perceive that they had better service when you fix something that has gone wrong, than had everything just gone right in the first place.
Next stop – Heathrow Airport, then Cairo!