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Shuffling Off To Buffalo

I'm on my way to Buffalo, courtesy of Southwest Airlines. No, they didn't give me a free ticket. My "direct flight" from Hartford is heading to Buffalo for fuel. Why? I have no idea or believe me, I would be sharing this information with you.

Passengers around the Globe are being kept in the dark. Airlines are constantly allowed to break their "contracts" with their customers, but heaven forbid you try and do the same. Show up ten minutes late for a flight and that's your problem. You are the one that has to pay a service fee, to rebook your flight. Yet, here I am on my way to Buffalo, and no one is paying me for my time for this lovely diversion on a sunny Friday afternoon.

How is it that industries like the airlines are able to break their contracts with us, yet we cannot do the same? Some people on my flight actually paid extra for a direct flight. Do you think they will receive a refund for the difference? Not likely. Then there were those who thought they'd be home in time for dinner and didn't bother to carry on a snack. They were given a bag of peanuts to tide them over.

If you travel enough, you know service failures happen. It's not the failures that bother most customers. It's what's done (or in most cases not done) to recover from these situations that usually keeps customers from returning.

Take my trip to Buffalo. Southwest could have awarded us frequent flyers with extra miles to compensate for our inconvenience. After all, we really did earn those miles. They could have opened up the in-flight bar and served complimentary wine and beer so we could enjoy happy hour in the sky. Or they could have provided passengers with vouchers to encourage people to fly Southwest again. That's all pie in the sky, as none of this was done.

Companies need to have a plan in place in case they are unable to deliver as promised. Think about what you can do to recover from service failures (and there will be some) that have your customers saying in a positive way, "Can you believe they did this, to make up for their mistake?"

© 2011 Human Resource Solutions. All Rights Reserved.

Roberta Chinsky Matuson is the President of Human Resource Solutions and author of the new book, Suddenly in Charge: Managing Up, Managing Down, Succeeding All Around (Nicholas Brealey). Visit Roberta's Blog or her Linked-in Group Suddenly in Charge! Sign up to receive a complimentary subscription to Roberta's monthly newsletter, HR Matters.

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  • Roberta Matuson

    Sadly, when you don't live near a major hub, your choices are limited. Regardless of status that day, we all went to Buffalo, as the next flight out would have gotten us into Hartford close to midnight.

    I'm grateful this week that my travel is taking me up and down the east coast to places I can get to in my car!


  • David Kaiser, PhD

    Ideally, competition will address this. We are free to vote with our feet and take a different airline. Sadly, they all seem to be in a race to the bottom on both price and service, si it doesn't always work that way.

    My experience has also shown that it matters greatly how much "status" one has on the airline. My wife is platinum level on American. When her flight is delayed, the airline employees fall over themselves to reschedule her and make her comfortable. When some guy or gal who flies AA twice per year gets stuck in Buffalo in January, they're on their own. If you have to travel, try to concentrate on one airline and build status, it really makes a difference.

    David Kaiser, PhD
    Time Management Coach to Authentic Leaders