Our luggage is lost. Well, not lost exactly. Just not with us. Or within 3000 miles of us.
After a picture perfect vacation in Hawaii, we were all set to renter the world, refreshed and renewed. A family again after 3 tolling, taxing months. Our relaxed, vacation glow created a nice bubble that we hoped would help us endure the 2-flight, 10 hour journey home.
Well, United had something to say about that. Our morning flight to SFO ended up being delayed to a red-eye, but in a veritable Amazing Race move, I was able to get us out to SF on another flight leaving only 90min later.
Turns out that wasn’t good enough for our connection and we missed our next flight by 20 minutes. Resigned to spending the night at a glamorous airport hotel, we trudged to the customer service counter to get a hotel voucher.
This is where bad went beyond worse. Not to create yet another stereotypical airline rant, but it’s moments like these that actually shape how a situation is perceived by a customer.
And listen. I get mechanical issues are going to happen. I want you to be reaaaally sure it’s fixed before putting me or anyone on that plane for a 5 hour flight across the largest water mass in the world. I’m not so happy it happened on my flight, but again, I get it – shit happens.
It’s all the other stuff that resulted, that I care about.
You, as the company, know that this is going to happened x% of the time of all flights. You’re sitting on the data. So why there aren’t better response plans in place, I still have no clue.
But back to our tale (which, incase you missed it, is being played out with a 4 year old and 18 month old in tow). We talk to the customer service agent (clearly staffed with the very best at 9pm on a Saturday). And after 15 minutes of staring at a screen while my kids tear around Terminal 3 in rabid thanks they’re not cooped up on a tin can anymore, I’m assured that our bags will be waiting for us at carousel 3 in 30 minutes.
So we take our time, eat our meal voucher’s fill of airport sushi and get to the baggage claim in time to see… nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Of course we march over to the counter and ask where our bags are. At which point they take those lovely sticker tags (really? still stubs of paper I have to keep track of along side the 453 things I schlep for the kids?) and key them in again.
“Sir, these bags are still in Maui, on your original flight.”
J looks over at me in disbelief.
“But the woman upstairs assured me they were not only here, that we could pick them up at Carousel 3 now.”
“Maam I don’t know what she told you but she never entered the tags in the system. If she had, she’d see the bags are still in Maui.”
This is where the rage happens. Not because I have no bags or because my kids will be sleeping on their plane-wear tonight (because of course this is the ONE trip I packed no extra sets of clothes in carry-on) or because our bags won’t get to us now until we’re well home.
It’s because someone didn’t or couldn’t say I don’t know. It’s because after a day of travel we could have already been tucked into our hotel but we just wasted an hour of time under the false direction of someone that just didn’t know.
I get it if you’re new, you may not know. Not great, because if you’re doing a job, you should know or know how to know.
But the biggest problem I’m finding in now running a service business, is knowing when to say I don’t know.
That we’ll work to find out or figure it out. But at the moment, I just don’t know.
That simple truth is humbling. It’s hard to get out. It deals a blow to the old ego. But it is much better than assuming some version of reality that doesnt actually exist.
I’ve realized that the best service businesses aren’t so because they always have the answer to every need a customer has. It’s because they have people that are resourceful to figure it out but also admit if they don’t yet know.
So let’s get back to being comfortable with saying “I don’t know”. It may feel like the wrong thing, but it’s the only way to make it right with your customer.