Several posts ago I commented on a recent experience traveling United Airlines. It was a mixed bag, as anyone who travels by air these days knows is a generous statement. But I recently had an experience with American Airlines that proves a great customer experience can be delivered regardless of the state of an industry, or the attitudes of C level executives.
My oldest son is an Aspie (Asperger’s Syndrome). See my earlier post here for a more detailed explanation. He is an experienced air traveler, but if there is a gate change or things don’t go as expected, he gets rattled and confused. To avoid this I obtain a gate pass and accompany him through the concourse and then wait until he boards the plane.
He was recently booked on a flight from Chicago to Philadelphia but we couldn’t get a seat assignment. We went to the airport, checked his bag and instead of the self-service check in machine giving him a boarding pass we got a slip of paper instructing us to go to the gate for the seat. Here is where American personnel really delivered. The coach check in line was extremely long, so an American employee directed us to the First Class check in area where there was no line. Have you ever noticed that the First Class check in countertops are made of granite vs. the formica you get in coach? And instead of the cattle maze being flat, black straps, they’re velvet ropes. Sorry, back to the story. I was immediately issued the gate pass, and was told that there were blocked seats on the flight and to explain the situation to the gate agent. He notated my son’s status in the system so they would know when we got to the gate.
Once at the gate, we learned the flight was oversold and they were asking for volunteers to take a later flight that connected through Dallas. When I explained to the agent about Julian’s situation, that he couldn’t really handle connecting flights, and his bag was already checked on this flight, she said she would do all she could to get him a seat.
During the wait she used the public address system to update us on the status, even calling Julian’s name to remind us she hadn’t forgotten about him. She did this several times. As small as this sounds, it meant a lot to Julian. He was able to stay calm and hopeful. As the flight was boarding, she happily called his name and handed him a boarding pass. To top it off, it was a First Class seat, 6A!
A great customer experience goes a long way to keep customers loyal. In many cases it is just as important as price. Hats off the the thoughtful American Airlines employees, who on this day, took the extra time to put the customer first. If you are someone that interacts with consumers on behalf of your company it is critical to remember the following. What a customer experiences defines the brand. Maybe American really does know why we fly.