In the Trenches: Profiting By Being Human
It's an odd thing being in a business where you do the best when people fare the worst. With massive storms hitting Europe and now the Northeast U.S., our business has been booming. The key? Being human. Seriously.
I suppose it's helpful that our business helps stranded air travelers, because that sets a pretty low bar for exceeding customer service expectations. While airlines have put a lot into improving service, any business that's faced with a huge spike in volume due to unexpected events is going to suffer. It really doesn't matter what industry you're in -- you can't help everyone immediately when the number of people impacted is so far beyond normal.
And that's where we step in. While we do have a large number of people sign up to have us follow their flights in advance, when the weather goes down, or, say, a volcano paralyzes air traffic like in some cheap disaster movie, we also get people in droves just looking for a human to help them out. Those people that come to us at the last minute are usually desperate for help, having failed to get satisfaction from the airline itself. That means they're really pissed off, and on top of that they're trying to juggle a million things. Maybe the kids need a babysitter, the dog needs a kennel, meetings have to be moved, appointments have to be canceled. It just sucks, to be blunt.
So for us, the key is to just let them give us the full story; just listen. When someone calls or emails, they're thrilled to get a response from an actual person. And it's a person who wants to help, not someone who just does the job until the clock hits 5. It's also a person in the US, without a hard-to-understand accent (since most of our clients are Americans). It's just someone that a stranded traveler can relate to, and that's half the battle. Usually, the drop in stress level is noticeable by the end of the discussion.
Of course, when we give someone an option to solve their problems, they instantly become happier, but that's the predictable part. There are also some surprising results. For example, we have one person who has been canceled on three different flights now, and she's still trying to get out of New York. You'd think she'd be unhappy with us since we haven't gotten her home yet, but she's not. She's been thrilled that she has someone to keep working through the problems with her and take the burden off.
Are we putting a ton of time into this? Yep. But do we now have a customer for life? I hope so. And all we had to do was be human.
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.