Let me set the stage. I was heading back from a vacation in Puerto Rico and I arrived at the US Air terminal to go home. Now this was the day after a big holiday in PR as well as on the tail end of the winter freeze in the US so many flights had been cancelled.
My wife who was raised in Puerto Rico reminded me that we needed to get to the airport early, as it would be very hectic. What we encountered was beyond our wildest expectations.
As we approached the counter we saw a huge cluster of people versus an orderly line. I squeezed through to the front where I saw an overwhelmed young woman who was shutting down all of the kiosks to check in. When I asked her where the line was for priority members she said there was none, everyone had to go on one line and that she did not have the staff to have self check in.
When I looked up at the counter there were two people trying to check in what I later learned was four flights. I went up to one gentleman who was handling first class and asked him if priority could check in with him and he politely said no. I heard grumblings that people had been online for 90 minutes already and did not check in. The scene was getting tense.
Long story short as I stood with the luggage by first class check in, (my wife and kids were on the other line) I asked the man if I upgraded to first using miles, could I miss the line and he allowed me to check in with him because I was nice he said. He then asked me to do something I thought I would never hear. He asked me if I could call US Air and tell them what was happening because it was not fair to anyone. He said no one was telling them what was going on and frustrated customers were just yelling at them.
The problem we need to learn from here is two-fold. US air will lose many passengers due to their ineffective planning. Somehow either not enough staff was assigned on this busy day or if there were and people called out sick, then they did not have an effective back up plan to cover. Either way, customer demand was not met, stress levels were up and US Air was to blame in these people’s eyes.
In our businesses, we all have times during the year when we know customer demand may surge. Sports apparel companies need to be ready for a new season, a restaurant knows that holidays will be packed and in our case, handling demand for our services right after a conference. Everyone needs to be ready.
If you do not plan for surges in your business as well as instituting an effective back up plan to cover any emergencies, you give the impression to your customers that their experience is not important to you. With so many options and so many vendors out there can you take the risk that poor planning gives them that impression?
I am sure many of us will use US Air again, but how many people on that day did they lose?
Don’t make the same mistake.