In the Trenches: Wrestling with Business Hours
The general premise of an air travel assistance company means that you have to be available whenever people are traveling. That's all day, every day of the year. Christmas, too. But not everything requires a 24 hour commitment, and I'm trying to start setting some boundaries around that premise.
When the company first started, it was just me and I responded pretty much whenever someone reached out. That could have been at night. It could have been on the weekend. It didn't really matter. I was working as hard as I could to get the business off the ground. But as I've added more people, I can't expect that others are going to work around the clock. (Actually, since my newest guy is hourly, that would definitely be illegal anyway.) So it requires putting some boundaries out there and trying to respect them.
The most important thing for me is to first define who won't be impacted. There are three groups for which this won't make a difference.
- Concierges who are following clients will continue to follow them whenever they are in the air. It doesn't make sense to have set hours for concierges anyway. They work when they have a client traveling.
- People who get stuck and need to sign up for urgent assistance can do so 24 hours a day, every day of the week. That's why urgent assistance costs more.
- Small business clients who pay for priority flight planning will continue to get that service whenever they need us.
With that out of the way, what's left? Well, there are new client sign-ups, general questions, and non-urgent flight planning. These are all things that can be handled during regular business hours, so that's what I'm aiming to do. More importantly, this won't end up resulting in us completely shutting down when we aren't working. I figure it's better to underpromise and overdeliver. I'll keep helping people on weekends. If we're going back and forth with someone when the "business day" technically ends, we aren't going to just stop.
Now I just need to decide exactly what the business hours should be. I'm looking for much broader business hours than a traditional business. It seems like 6 a.m. until 7 p.m. Pacific Time would cover much of the U.S. pretty thoroughly. Contact us outside of that window and we'll get back to you when we open up again.
What do you think? Is this a good idea?
Brett Snyder is President and Chief Airline Dork of Cranky Concierge air travel assistance. Snyder previously worked for several airlines, including America West and United, before leaving to create a travel search site for PriceGrabber.com. Snyder did his undergrad at George Washington and earned his MBA from Stanford.