How To Go From Awesome To Horrific – A True Experience Story


Share on LinkedIn

You have to be responsible for the customer’s entire experience, not just the things directly in your control.

Let me give you a real example.

If you have ever read any of my previous blogs about my various travel experiences, you know my disdain for the typical airline customer experience.

If you haven’t, here is a funny one you might enjoy.

Ok, back to my point.

It is critically important for you and your organization to look for ways to own and manage the entire customer experience. Yes, this means for things “you are not responsible for.”

On one of my most recent business trips I was returning from Bentonville, AR to Los Angeles, CA on yes, another American Airlines flight 2917 on April 10th.

On this particular flight, everything was absolutely extraordinary. The flight left on time, the crew was funny and friendly, my glass was kept full and everything was enjoyable.

If my customer experience ended when my flight did at the commuter terminal at LAX, everything would have been awesome.

Sadly, it didn’t.

Once I got off the plane and into the terminal the experience went from awesome to horrific.

I had two options to try to get to my home in San Diego. The desired option was to switch to another carrier to fly home to San Diego. The second option was to take a car and drive for 90 minutes.

Being that I am a fairly seasoned traveler and plan for contingencies, I booked both a reservation on another commuter flight and a town car.

If American Airlines owned the entire experience of their customer, they would have cared deeply about what happens next.

Myself and a business colleague were trying to make a tight connection and found ourselves about 200 people deep in a bus line waiting to get to the main terminal.

There was a red partition rope, which I went under and walked to the front of the line and asked the representative what was going on.

I’m not making these next interactions up.

He said, “We are waiting for buses to take you and the other passengers to the main terminal.”

I said, “Sir, turn around. There are 3 buses behind you with nobody on them except the 3 drivers.”

He said, “Oh, I know. Those are for employees.”

I said, “Don’t you think it would be smart to use those buses for both employees and customers since we are all trying to get to the same place, and we are all pretty much trying to make our next flight?”

He said, “Sir, I don’t give a shit.”

I said, “What?”

He said, “Look, I’m just doing my job. I don’t give a shit where you or anybody else is trying to get to.”

After walking back in the line about 200 people deep to tell my business colleague what just happened, I realized there were now another 150 or so people behind us.

Then, as I am telling her what happened, we watch three people walk to the front of the line under the same partition I just went under, and board a bus.

Because I am trying to make a tight connection or notify the car service to be at the curb, I once again, walk up to the front of the line to talk to another representative.

I asked, “Why did you let those three people get on the employee bus?”

He said, “Because they are trying to make an international connection.”

I said, “Ok. I understand that. But don’t you think it is crazy to send the bus with only three employees and three international travelers on it?”

He said, “I don’t think it makes any sense. We are working on a new system here and there is construction on the tarmac.”

I said, “Is there any way you can ask those two drivers in those two buses to take us non-international customers over to the main terminal instead of waiting for more employees?”

He said, “I’d like to help you, but that’s the policy.”

Since I was still at the front of the line having this interaction, I was able to witness the customers revolt and storm the two empty buses and mandate they get over to the terminal so they can make their connections.

I was separated from my colleague so we didn’t board the first two buses, but we were able to board the third bus after it returned 40 minutes later from delivering the three employees and three international travelers.

I must say, even though the experience was shocking, it was kind of humorous as I didn’t have any critical connection to make, just one that was far more convenient.

I felt bad for all the other American Airline customers who got trapped in a horrible customer experience through the commuter bus system.

I know you and American Airlines might say, “That’s not fair. Those are not our employees or our buses.”

The fact of the matter is, American Airlines should have had an ambassador or customer service representative there to problem solve and trouble shoot on behalf of the hundreds of American Airlines customers who were trying to make another American Airlines connection or meet someone at the main terminal.

Yes, American Airlines did a wonderful job on delivering me and my business colleague from Bentonville to Los Angeles. It was awesome.

But what they failed to understand is for us and several hundred other customers, they dropped the ball thinking their responsibility ended the moment their jet bridge opened.

Now, think about you, your department and your company.

What areas are you leaving unattended to in your customer’s experience just because you think “you are not responsible?”

The best service experiences are created by those organizations that take responsibility for all key touch points, even if “they are not responsible”.

Republished with author’s permission from original post.

Peter Psichogios
Peter Psichogios is the President of CSI International Performance Group whose mission is to help companies create engaging employee and customer experiences. Prior to joining CSI International Peter served as an executive member of one of the largest Instructional System Association companies in the world. In this capacity, he led all the front-end analysis and worked directly with Dr. Ken Blanchard. Peter has been fortunate to work with the who's who of the Fortune 500, helping them deliver innovative learning, engagement and recognition solutions.


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here