Customer Experience Volcanic Moment of Truth – Last Chapter


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I am back home. The return home presents another set of lessons. Considering the fact that during 9/11 I was stuck in Europe, I was expecting the airlines to learn a lesson from that crisis. They did. They told all passengers without confirmed reservations to stay away from the airports. Guards were placed outside the terminals at Heathrow airports and only customers whom their name was on the list were even allowed to enter the building! The result – a BA flight to Boston left with 150 passengers in a 450 seat aircraft. The following flight had 250 passengers on a 450 seats aircraft.

Despite years of investing in the web experience and teaching customers to use self service channels, those channels were shut down and you had to go through the call center for any request or query. The result 2 hours or more of wait time.

Crisis is going to take place. It is just a matter of time. Being ready for it is the real litmus test. Customer will measure you not only based on routine times, but based on crisis time. During the 9/11 crisis I saw the airlines panicking and thousands of passengers stranded in the airport. Now I saw them panicking in the other direction and the result was half empty flights. Isn’t it time we plan for crisis. Isn’t time that we build programs to deal with massive delays and cancellations. Life is full of surprises, yet from 9/11 to the volcanic ashes, my experience was that we have not learned much or build the mechanisms to effectively deal with the challenge. Was it really necessary to shut down the web tools which could have provided customers with tools to manage the crisis. After years of investing in self service, we just took customers backwards and taught them that the call center is the primary channel.

Before I close, I do want to thank the two special Virgin Atlantic Airways employees who helped me get on the last flight too Newark even though they could not locate my confirmed reservation which was made by another airline. They were kind and empathetic and simply human in a time of need. Thank you Virgin.

Lesson – Life is full of surprises. But if you fail to learn from them and plan better for next time, you will fail your customers. When a customer is telling you that they expect the unexpected, they do not mean negative surprises. We must start anticipating the surprises and plan for them. They are the real moments of truth of every relationship. We are ultimately judged on our actions during the unexpected because it tests our true nature.

Lior Arussy
One of the world’s authorities on customer experience, customer centricity, and transformation, Lior Arussy delivers results. His strategic framework converts organizations from product- to customer-centricity. It is drawn from his work with some of the world’s leading brands: Mercedes-Benz, Royal Caribbean, Delta Air Lines, MasterCard, Novo Nordisk, Walmart and more.Arussy is also the author of seven books, including Next Is Now (May 2018)


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