Air Sickness

Using VOC to make for friendlier skies

Air travel has its highs and lows, and anyone who flies regularly knows many forces must align to get you to your destination. Some factors are out of anyone’s control, such as weather. But when the fault lies with the airline, as was the case during my family vacation during the holidays, the onus is on the airline to pursue the quickest, best solution, while offering consistent, caring, quality customer service. Right?

That did not happen in my case, and, after 17 long hours and countless broken promises, my family ended up stranded in Atlanta overnight on Christmas Eve.

It’s a long story, and I’ll spare most of the gory details, but the gist is that, when a mechanical malfunction grounded the plane, passengers were greeted by ill-prepared, powerless employees, mixed or nonexistent communication and no knowledge carry-over between shifts (yes, we endured more than one shift change and ended up briefing the new round of employees on what was going on).

As I watched the day play out, I found myself thinking about all the better ways this particular airline—or any airline—could have handled the situation to lessen the impact of this event on customers and use the situation to build loyalty, rather than kill it forever. I can tell you this: After 15 hours, some food vouchers would have been nice!

The debacle actually made local news. Check out my pictures of the police being called in to control the angry mob on Facebook.

It’s hard to know what corrective action the airline took after all was said and done beyond sending out some compensatory travel vouchers. I hope it was a rigorous root cause analysis (although I doubt it). Perhaps it might take a lesson or two from JetBlue, whose efforts to capture and use customer feedback to make customer experiences better are featured in this month’s cover story, "Safe Landing."

The company implemented a text analytics solution that could extract keywords from verbatim comments, creating trend information and allowing employees to link events and comments with specific flights, crews and events—then make improvements accordingly. JetBlue: When are you coming to Milwaukee?

Customer satisfaction and loyalty is this issue’s theme, and two other articles focus on voice of the customer (VOC). "High Priority" explains a process for conducting a VOC analysis, then prioritizing and addressing the data using the Kano model.

"In It for the Long Haul" also showcases a unit of HD Supply’s as it designed a VOC project. The company’s efforts led to a gold award at last year’s ASQ International Team Excellence competition.

Seiche Sanders

Seiche Sanders

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