A Lesson Learned on the Tarmac.

On a recent flight on Southwest Airlines, my plane sat on the tarmac for a good 45 minutes while staff frantically looked for a couple of passengers.  Apparently, they had oversold the plane (a common practice on airlines that I don’t understand but maybe that’s for another post) and during the shuffle to get people sorted, they could not reconcile who got off and who was still on the plane.

As the situation got more and more frustrating and the temperature on the plane began to rise (the air conditioning on planes, for some reason I do not understand, only works when you are under way), we passengers started getting pretty restless and angry.  When the flight attendant finally relayed to us what was going on and how they had to manually reconcile the passenger manifest, passengers began making comments.  Thinking practically, I asked why we couldn’t simply do a roll call and wrap things up easily.  I got no answer, only a laugh and a smirk from the flight attendant.

Now, I am relaying this story not to trash Southwest as they are typically very good and customer oriented (although recently they seem to have slipped a bit), but to point out that sometimes alternative solutions, while maybe a little unorthodox, might actually get your customer on their way and should be seen as options.  The reason businesses are in business is to make their customers successful, and holding that up in order to follow a procedure when there is another possibility that would get them moving is flawed thinking to me.

Sometimes old school, analog solutions can and do work, and if that gets customers on their way and makes them successful, so be it.  In addition, customers sometimes have solutions and listening to them and using their solutions can not only get them on their way but further solidify the relationship.  You see, when that flight attendant dismissed my comment, she sowed a small seed of discontent in my relationship with Southwest Airlines.  Now maybe there are reasons of which I am unaware that made my suggestion impossible, but she could have relayed that instead of simply dismissing me.

Here’s the lesson, when a problem arises and the established procedure is holding up your customer, try other options, and listen to your customer, they may have that optional solution right in front of your nose.

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2 thoughts on “A Lesson Learned on the Tarmac.

  1. Exactly, dowe asking our customers to play by our (rigid) rules or do we listen to what they need and find a way to make them successful? Also, do we acknowledge them when we can’t make it happen quite the way the need and at least make sure they feel heard?

    • Precisely! Too many businesses put their needs first instead of putting their customers’ needs first. Flexibility is the road less traveled I’m afraid.

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