American Pie – When Everything Goes Wrong.
- Sunday, 15 February 2009
Loris Diner, San Francisco Airport
I think Ive said before San Francisco happens to be one of my very favorite places in the world. Ive been here for a few days now running web workshops and just have to pass on a relevant brand related story, about one of the worst but actually best experiences Ive had in a long time.
I was due to fly to Denver out of SFO, I was on an 8.45 morning departure and arrived two hours prior, knowing what US security can be like. I was booked with one of the major US Airlines and made my way to the check in area. The lines (when in America I never use the term queue for American political correctness) were horrendous, stretching way back. I smiled knowing that with my my Star Alliance Gold card check-in would give me a speedy passage. I showed my reservation to one of the attendants and asked where my particular check-in was, and he replied right here buddy, with everyone else. There must have been over 100 people in the elite check-in, and this particular airline had only 3 check in staff that day. 30 minutes later Id fought my way to the front of the line and handed over the print out of my reservation. The lady behind the desk, who bore a striking resemblance to an American version of Margaret Thatcher in her prime, told me Youre at the wrong airline desk, next please. But I cant be I replied, Look at the Airline reservation its your airline. Now with a just a hint of a smile she replied Code share. Its our route but operated by our partner airline. You better get over there – youre gonna be late.
I ran to the next terminal and found the check in. The queue (forget political correctness) despite my gold card was even worse. Another 45 minutes go by and Im finally checked in and now in the line (line actually doesnt do it justice – it was a herd of miserable, sweaty humanity). Get through and now have just 5 minutes to dash to the gate (starving but forget breakfast), which is a fair distance through the terminal. I arrive and discover the flight has been overbooked by 20 people and due to the fact that Im late (Im late!) Ive been bumped. I stood at the desk, simmering, ready to explode. I tried to tell them the torture Id been put through at their hands. I was ready to unleash all sorts of threats on them – anything I could think of. Id never fly with them again. Id write a letter to their President. In fact Id write a letter to THE President. He seems like he wants to sort out Americas problems – well this is a problem. Then it happened. One of the airline ladies behind the desk came over and appeared genuinely sorry for what Id been through and the way Id been treated. Im personally going to do whatever I can to sort this out, she said. For the next 15 minutes she checked every possible departure until she found really great connections, made phone calls, fixed ticketing issues. She finally booked me onto another flight. In the process she upgraded me for my trouble. To round it out she even gave me vouchers for breakfast. I made for the diner to write this blog.
The point is this. More than ever today companies need brands to deliver really great experiences and a huge part of that is genuine customer service. That one lady changed my view of her airline and convinced me that at least some of their people were trying. Its people that make the difference you see. Most brands, and certainly in the business to business sector nearly all brands, rely on their people as the primary brand carriers. Companies need to invest and commit to their people like never before. Its something we help our clients with at Dowell Stubbs and Gyro through our Brand Engagement program and its something Im seeing the value of even more in these dark economic times.
If youre own people arent fully on brand – forget the advertising campaigns. It isnt going to work.
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