In the Trenches: Being Honest With Clients
This past week has been a difficult one for Cranky Concierge. Thanks to several different issues that occurred at once, we were completely overwhelmed. How did we cope? We simply told our customers the truth, and our strategy worked well.
Here’s what happened: I went to Chicago on Wednesday to meet with United Airlines on Thursday. On the day of the meetings, my full-time travel architect had a personal emergency, which meant he would be unexpectedly offline.
Like many small businesses, we have very few employees, so we didn’t really have anyone to cover for both of us being out of the office. Oh, and did I mention this was the same day that Dallas was blanketed with ice, keeping airplanes from flying?
The end result was drastically reduced manpower and an increased workload. The situation would have been disastrous for us if we’d been unable to help people.
But we survived. We set up triage, pushing off the less urgent client needs in favor of those who were stuck on the road. We also shifted as much work as possible to our concierges, the independent contractors who monitor flights, because they were operating at full strength while the office staff was not. But that wasn’t enough, because we were still keeping some clients waiting longer than we’d like.
So, what did we do? We told them what was happening. We explained to anyone who was anxiously awaiting a response that we were severely short-staffed. We tried to humanize the situation by assuring people that the delay wouldn’t cause them to miss out on anything.
The response was positive. People understood that sometimes things happen beyond our control. That’s always a possibility when you’re working with a small business. In the end, we helped everyone who needed urgent assistance, and none of our other clients was any worse for wear. It just took us a little longer than usual to assist them.
I was very happy for the weekend’s arrival, so that we could recover. With both me and my full-time travel architect in the office on Monday, our operations were back to normal.
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.