By Tom Cohn, BKBG Executive Vice President
Recently, someone made a plane reservation for me on American Airlines. The ticket was under the name of Tom Cohn. When I noticed this the day before I was scheduled to leave, I had a scary thought. I do not have any identification that shows my first name as Tom. My license, global entry card and passport reflect the name my parents gave me, which is Thomas. Was that a big deal? I'm not sure. Certainly, I did not want to get into an argument with a representative of the Transportation Safety Administration. I logged into the American Airlines website to see what I could do to avoid a potential problem. The website advised me that my reservation could not be modified online. I was instructed to call reservations.
I am absolutely sure that the CEO, president, senior vice president or other leaders of American Airlines has never called American reservations. If they did and were satisfied with the experience delivered to customers, their long-term prospects with the company most likely are not good. I like American Airlines. I've had good experiences with the company. However, it is almost inconceivable that any company would want to make it difficult to serve customers or provide a pleasant customer experience unless their goal is to have fewer customers. American is not alone. Fortunately, I have not had to call reservations at other airlines to know if the American experience is unique. I suspect it is not.
Why then do so many companies employ systems that only serve to frustrate those who want to spend their money on what those companies have to sell. Don’t you just love getting messages that “Your call is important to us, but all of our customer service representatives are serving other customers. Your average wait time is …."? Guess what? Your call is not important enough for that company to hire more people to answer customer calls. Would it not be better to state the truth, "We are trying to keep the cost of what we do down, so we have fewer people to serve you, our customer. We decided that it was an amicable trade-off to keep you on hold for a longer period. We hope you understand and appreciate your patience. Your average wait time will be …." That certainly would resonate much more favorably than some ridiculous statement that your call is important when truly it is not.
I know why companies intentionally piss off customers. They believe it is more cost efficient. They can eliminate positions, cut expenses and increase profits. They look through a mirror that only reflects back at them, on their needs, their goals and their profit margins. Have they considered how much business they miss or loss by not caring about the customer experience? Don’t they realize customers have other choices? Maybe they are dependent on the fact that all of their competitors stink equally.
What mirror do you look through? When was the last time you called your showroom or customer service representative? Do you hear a friendly voice or an annoying list of questions that need to be answered before a human being was available? How many times have you simply hung up on a business because it required too much of your effort to give that business your hard-earned cash? Does the mirror you look through reflect on only your needs, or does it focus on your existing and prospective customers first?
We all remember the story of Snow White. The wicked witch asks the question, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?” If you asked a similar question of your mirror, who’s reflection would you see? What are you going to do about it?