I know it seems like I write every time I fly, but there is something about the entire customer service experience that compels me.
If the Donald were to ask me what I’d like to see come out of his first term, I would tell him to make TSA and the airlines work with Swiss efficiency and German timeliness and Thai customer experience.
But, what about ISIS? You ask. My guess is that if we asked for volunteers from Texas, big guys from the oil fields with pickups and a shotgun or two suspended from their truck’s rear window, that we could teach the ISIS boys to spell infidel in Yiddish.
The TSA pre-check line was closed. Only the government would make you pay for a service and then not provide it.
TSA. Even enough said? Not really. TSA has probably screened a hundred million people since it began. If I do a task more than once I reduce it to its bit parts and figure out how to make that task efficient and effective. I figure out how to do it correctly, and how to ensure that there is no wasted effort.
The TSA does not appear to have ever analyzed how to do what they do. The screening process and experience differs by agent, time of day, airline, concourse and airport. One would have thought the after doing anything a hundred million times that the process would, if nothing else, be perfect. Even if by accident.
But it remains a crapshoot. Bags, liquids, shoes, belt…Next week I am flying naked. Frisk me. It might be the best thing that happens to me that day. I wonder if I will want a cigarette afterwards.
We boarded the American flight two and a half hours after the scheduled departure time. I used the one hundred and fifty minutes to amuse myself. I went to American’s website. Looked them up on an agglomeration of social media sites, and Googled them Would it surprise you to learn that American has executives in charge of planning and strategy and customer service and customer experience and digital design and its call centers?
I had time to fire off a few emails to the handful of corporate email addresses I found. I asked paradoxically, “If you were to fire all of those people, would anybody notice?” It’s like asking whether it would make any difference if you were driving and a t the speed of light and turned on your headlights.
The gate agent announced that they were trying to expedite the boarding process. I announced loud enough for those around me to hear, “That boat has already sailed.”
Twenty-seven priority boarding categories were announced before those of us relegated to steerage class. Boarding had ground to a halt. Getting people to move down the ramp was like trying to pass a camel through the eye of a needle—I thought I would wax biblotic.
The woman in front of me was wearing tight, giraffe-print pants, pants that should have been outlawed in forty-three states. But here is where it gets interesting, at least in the places of my mind from whence I hear the voices. The shirt she was wearing was printed with the phrase, “Comcast means placing customers first.” I almost bit through my tongue when I read it. Do you see the irony, or am I just quite the cynic?
Airline mottos, prior to the jet age, were something like, “We love to fly and it shows.” My suggestion for American’s new motto is, “We don’t like you any more than you like us. So sit down and shut up.” It’s too long to get it to fit nicely on a T-shirt, but it gets points for sincerity.
In an attempt to ameliorate their employer’s poor service, the flight attendants distributed bags of peanuts. The Giraffe lady asked for, and received, two bags. There giraffe prints was about to be stretched even further.
Flying and healthcare. Do something for the first time and you expect a few bumps and bruises. Do it a few million, and if the experience still stinks, shame on you.
The health system of provider executive I spoke with this week said her system receives more than eight million calls each year. Among overseeing her system’s digital strategy, she also oversees its call center. When asked how effective she felt her call center was, she beamed with pride and said, “I rarely get a complaint.”
For those of you with whom I have not spoken, I should let you know that I never ask a question without having already done my homework. I had made several phone calls to her system and I wasn’t beaming. Head in the sand management.
Eight million calls is a lot. They should have discovered how to improve the experience after the first six or seven million. The same holds true for payers and PBXs. After doing anything eight million times you should be exceptional at it, should should be setting the world on fire with you efficiency and effectiveness.
Back to American Airlines for one second. The gate agent for my return flight, Dianne, Brandon, was unbelievably good. People waiting to board were commenting on how exceptionally cheerful she was.
Once I was seated, I found an American link to to write a commendation for Dianne. But the link’s form didn’t let me post a commendation. Perhaps the link was never tested, or had never been used before. If you happen to know anyone at American, please tell them about Dianne for me.
The circle of life.