Lucky's Blog

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

A Cheap Air Airline Company, A Lesson In How To Get It Wrong

Let me start off by apologizing for the size of this article. I usually try to keep my articles much shorter, but this one really explains what not to do, and shows opportunities to excel. It is worth the time if you have it. If not you can skip to the bottom and read the points I make about this experience and still gain some value from this article. I have left out the real company’s name on purpose. I don’t need any lawsuits…lol. But for those of you who travel often, I am sure you will know exactly who I am referring to in this article.

I had a peer group meeting in Austin, Texas last week and when making travel arrangements my executive assistant informed me there was a direct flight out of the St. Pete airport. Not only was the St. Pete airport much closer to my home than TIA, but the flight was also less money than my usual carrier of choice. Considering it was a direct flight, rather than having an hour and a half layover which would save me productive time, plus the fact that the flight was cheaper, it seemed like a no-brainer. Little did I know what a horrible experience I would have over the next two flights.

It started with checking in at the airport. When I arrived and went to the check-in kiosk, the lady behind the counter was very unfriendly, and I literally felt like I was bothering her by checking-in. She started off by asking me if I already had my boarding pass. When I said “no” she rolled her eyes and said that I needed to download the company’s app to my phone. Otherwise, she would have to charge me to print the boarding pass. So she had me stand there holding up the line while I tried to download the application. After the fourth attempt of trying to download the application it finally did install properly without any errors, only to find out my flight wouldn’t pull up, and I couldn’t enter my personal information because the app kept freezing. So after about 20 minutes she finally said she would have to print the boarding pass, which is what I recommended from the start. She then informed me that it would be two dollars! Seriously? I just lost 20 minutes of my life over two dollars?

Next, she asked me to load my bag on the scale. Every other carrier has a limit of 50 lbs., but not this company. Their max is 40 lbs. without extra fees. So fifty plus dollars later, I was finally able to move on to get through security and to my gate. Once I arrived, I couldn’t help but notice several people that were complaining to the representative at the gate counter because they were stopped before being allowed to board and told they had to pay for their carry-on bags. They were upset that no one had told them they had to pay for carry-on bags until they were at the gate and ready to board the plane. While the rest of the experience that day was not good, it wasn’t bad enough to make this article.

When I arrived in Austin Texas, we landed at the “South Terminal.” Which basically is a landing strip in a cow field, (I am barely exaggerating for effect here). Once I got off the plane, I walked about 20 feet to the baggage claim. There I stood with everyone else from my plane waiting for over 45 minutes before they finally started sending the baggage through. Once I got my bag, I had to board a shuttle to go to the main terminal. Another 45 minutes would pass as we traveled to the main terminal where I had to go to get my rental car. So when all was said and done, it took me the same amount of time to get from St. Pete to my rental car, as if I had taken my normal carrier with the layover.
Now at this point most of you are probably saying, yeah we have all had some bad flight experiences. While this is true, wait, it gets worse.

Before I had to take my flight home, I made sure I worked on getting all my personal information into the app on my phone so I could check-in, pay for my bags, and get info on the flight before arriving at the airport. Nothing worked correctly so I really needed some help from customer service or at least some Frequently Asked Questions! This was very difficult since there is nowhere on the company’s web page for you to call customer service. Yes, that’s right there is no 1-800 number to call customer service, you have to email them and hope someone gets back to you.

So for my trip home, I was able to check in the day before my flight, choose a better seat, and pay for my bags. Note, I had to do it on the website; there was no way to pay from the application unless you already entered your credit card on their website. So I can’t see any reason for the app other than to have your boarding pass. But I did feel like at least it was going to be an easier trip home. Boy was I wrong!

From the time I checked in the day before, I received several reminders from the app on my phone to be sure I arrive at the airport at least two hours before my flight to ensure enough time. Since I already knew I had to drop off the rental car at the main terminal, I was planning on leaving early. I tried calling the company to see if I needed to check my bag at the main terminal, or if check-in was at the south terminal since it wasn’t clear and there were no instructions on the app or my itinerary. As I said before, there is no way to contact them other than email, so I called the airport and got their customer service right away. They were extremely helpful and let me know, not only that the check in was at the South terminal but that the South terminal was at least 30 mins away depending on traffic.

So the following morning I left at 9:30 AM for a flight that wasn’t going to leave until 1:47 PM. But I didn’t want to take a chance of missing my flight home. I hit some bad traffic getting to the main terminal, but was able to drop off the rental car without any issues and then hopped on the shuttle to take me to the South terminal. I arrived at the South terminal at approximately 10:45 AM. There were only three kiosks at the South terminal, and there was no one there at all. There was no information counter, nothing. Literally like a ghost town other than some TSA officials at the security point. I tried asking them some questions, but the only thing they could tell me was that I couldn’t go through security until I dropped off my bag. So I went over to the roped off line for the three counters to wait. Once I got to the front, since I was the only person there, I saw a sign that said “All counters will not open until 35 minutes before your scheduled departure time. If you have already printed your boarding pass, you can proceed through security to the terminal.”

I was flabbergasted. So if I have a bag, I have to sit here waiting until a ticket agent decides to show up? I received multiple notices to arrive at least two hours early, but you are not going to open the counters until 35 minutes before the flight takes off? According to my boarding pass, the plane starts boarding at 1:02 PM. So the plane will start boarding before the check-in counter opens? You have to be kidding me!  So I immediately went back to the company’s website looking for any way to contact someone. The only option was an email. So I decided since I was going to be standing here in line for the next two hours or more, I would write an email to them letting them know how upset I was. There were no options on the drop-down menus for complaints. It was like they had designed their entire system to avoid allowing people to complain or let them know how they are doing. So even more upset at this point I went to Facebook. I looked up their site and left the scathing letter on their Facebook page deterring anyone from being lured into their cheap prices.

The next thing I know, they quickly responded to the Facebook post with a phone number I could call. By this time there were several others in line with me, and all were as upset as I was about the circumstances. I let them know I finally got a phone number and was calling them now. As I dialed the number, I was thinking about what I was going to say and trying to calm down so as not to completely go off on the person who answered the phone.

When the phone connected, I got a recording with a bunch of numbers to choose from depending on why I was calling. Surprise, surprise there was no option for complaints or to talk to an operator. I tried just pushing zero (sometimes that works), but the system didn’t recognize that option. Extremely frustrated I finally chose the option for filing a claim for a lost bag in hopes I would get through to someone. Then I got another recording saying that my call will be taken in the order it was received and the minimum, yes minimum, wait time would be 45 minutes! Again, I can’t help but feel this was yet another tactic to get me to hang up and for The Company to avoid listening to any complaints. Little did they know, I am not the person you want to upset, and I had nothing better to do for the next few hours but wait. So I put it on speaker and waited. All the time I had more and more people gathering around me, all of them just as upset as I was, and all of us beside ourselves with how a company in today’s connected world could be so disinterested in what their customers have to say.

Finally, after about an hour someone answered the phone, obviously from an outsourced call center. I explained everything, with the crowd chiming in like an angry mob. The only response we received was that this was a small airport and that it would only take minutes to walk through security and onto the plane. They gave me the opportunity to file a claim, but I had no loss other than time, so that was as useless as the other information.

It was true that once the ticket agents finally arrived and I checked my bag, it was probably only 50 steps through security and to the actual gate. But none of us knew that at the time, nor would anyone expect that to be the case at an airport, especially after the multitude of messages warning that I arrive two hours early.

I tell this story because it is an example of what not to do if you want to offer good customer service. The company had multiple opportunities to provide good customer service by simply just providing good communication. But beyond that, let's look at a few things pointed out in this experience.

  • 1.       The company requires you to have their app installed on your phone, or there will be additional fees. It is the company’s responsibility to let their customers know of anything that may be required, especially if it falls outside the industry standard. When booking a flight, they should have pop up windows, or options right then to notify the customer and allow them to resolve these requirements right at that time.

  • 2.       The company charges for printing a boarding pass. If your fee for an extra is so low, such as the printing fee for a boarding pass ($2.00), just include it in the costs of the ticket. Charging such a small amount sends a poor message to your customer that you are nickel and diming them to death. It will almost guarantee a bad customer experience.

  • 3.       The company’s baggage weight limit is 40lbs. You need to know the industry standards. If all other carriers are at 50lbs, then you should also use that same weight rather than using it as a way to charge your customers extra. All these extra fees make you look dishonest. Everyone has heard of the bait and switch, and no one is doing it better than this company.

  • 4.       This company has purposefully set up their lines of communication to keep customers from being allowed to make contact and express themselves. This is a horrible way to set up your company. If you don’t know what pains your customers are experiencing, then you have no chance of providing a great customer experience. The easier you make it for your customers to communicate with you, the more opportunities you will have to turn them into raving fans.

  • 5.       This company didn’t want to have people at a counter for hours before a flight to try and save money. By not providing the proper agents, this company caused many unhappy customers. The cost of an unhappy customer will always outweigh the cost of keeping a few people available to ensure your customers are happy.

 We can actually look even deeper. If this company allowed their customers to openly communicate the pain of waiting for an agent to show up to check bags, they might be able to come up with alternatives. I don’t know anything about airlines, but it seems to me that they could have a self-check process for bags. You already have the app on the phone with your boarding pass, all they need is an automated kiosk to allow you to set your bag on the scale, scan your boarding pass, and it spits out the tag. You could then apply it yourself and then set your bag on an automated conveyor. This would do away with even needing a person, which would improve the customer experience while saving the company money.

I could keep going with more examples from this experience, but I think I made my point.
The key points of this article are simple:

  • 1.       Make sure you over communicate to your customers, this will help manage their expectations.

  • 2.       Allow your customers to easily let you know how you are doing. You will learn more than you ever thought possible to improve the overall customer experience.

  • 3.       Use all the information you receive from your customers to come up with new and innovative ways to improve the customer experience.

I picked on the Airline Industry this week, but for a good reason. I think this is an opportunity for a company to really make a difference. I do a lot of flying and so do most of my colleagues. Everyone I speak with talks about how unpleasant the flying experience is, from the TSA to cramped spaces and being herded like cattle. Someone, someday, will take the time to make sure that their customers enjoy the flying experience. Whomever that is, will revolutionize the industry and own the air transportation market.

If you enjoyed this article, be sure to check out my blog for many other great articles at https://glenluckydrake.blogspot.com/

Thursday, February 22, 2018

The Next Generation Professor

Today I wanted to talk about the new generation of workers that are coming into the construction industry. In just about every study I have read there is a projected shortage of skilled labor coming up in the next several years. While much of this is due to baby boomers leaving the workplace, another factor that keeps popping its head up is the fact that the “Z” generation is much more engaged in higher education and not interested in careers in the skilled trade industry. What this means to us in the construction industry is that we will continue to find it increasingly difficult to find qualified help in the coming years. While there are many different schools of thought on how this will actually play out, I tend to believe what many are predicting to be, an unprecedented shortage of skilled labor in the coming years. This projection is just a lead in, and I am not going to be talking about any of the details to this trend, the studies, or ways to mitigate the problem should it actually come to fruition.
In this article, I want to address the upcoming role many leaders will have in this new generation of workers. While the people that enter into the field side of the construction trade don’t typically earn a college degree, e.g., electricians, plumbers, HVAC techs and the like, they have chosen this field the same as a college student has chosen their path. As a leader, you need to remember that to the field worker you are the professor in their world. What you teach them, and more importantly the actions they see you perform will shape the type of person they become. If you teach them it is ok to cut corners; then they will cut corners. If you teach them it is ok to be dishonest; then they will be dishonest.

Everyone can remember someone who has had an impact on their lives in one way or another. It may have been your college professor, your football coach, your parent, or even just a friend. What I wanted to take the time to cover today is that in the new generation of workers, you will be all of the above to your team members. The days of carrots and sticks are over. The new generation of workers want to be part of something bigger than just a job and truly believe that the company cares. A leader’s responsibility has always been to their team, and true leaders have always cared about their team. However, in the past, it wasn’t uncommon for poor leaders to be in positions of power. This will not be sustainable in the future.

I have a massive passion for quality and an almost psychotic obsession for customer service. These behaviors were instilled in me by many of my mentors while growing up in the field, and then later as a business owner. To start with, my father is by far the greatest man I have ever known. He taught me since I was a baby about responsibility and doing the right thing, even when no one is looking. His tireless work ethic is the reason for the way I am today and the internal drive I have to keep going even when everything is pushing against me.

My passion for quality was given to me by my first foreman who would never accept anything less than perfection on every installation. He is the one who taught me what the difference is between a hack and a professional! (LOL, that one is for you Jimmy.) Over the years I have had the blessed fortune to work with or for some of the industry’s most amazing people, and I know everything I am today is due to their expert tutelage. But this article isn’t about me.

I told these details about myself ahead of time to set the mood for you, so you would be ready to hear what I have to say, and understand the effect you have on the people you train and manage. What you tell your team will echo in their heads for a lifetime, and your actions will be stories they tell to others for as long as they walk the earth. You are not just the boss, manager, supervisor, or even co-worker. In the new generation everyone will be part of the workforce family, and as with family, you will have to care honestly about their future and well being.

Being a leader doesn’t end with the right way to do a specific task. Being a leader means helping everyone on your team get to where they want to go on their career path. Being a leader means helping your entire team build a better life for themselves and their families. Being a leader means helping them be fiscally responsible, honest, and a person of integrity. While you may forget sometimes, this is your job as a leader, and it doesn’t stop at the workplace, nor does it stop a 5 PM. A true leader is a professor, a father, a life coach, a friend and sometimes even a minister. But in the end, it is all about being real. You cannot pretend to care. Either you do, or you don’t. If you do care, great, don’t be afraid to show it and don’t assume they know you care. You have to prove it every day. However, if you are a person who doesn’t care about their team, then do everyone a favor and get out of a leadership position. For as I said, in the coming years all will become transparent, and in my humble opinion, there will only be a place for true leaders in our industry.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Please Help

For those of you who know me, you all know how hard it is for me to ask for money. However, my wife has been battling arthritis for several years now and I can't express how much this disease affects every part of someone's life and their family members. Please dig deep and be as generous as possible to help us find a cure. This holiday season, I’m participating in the Arthritis Foundation’s Jingle Bell Run/Walk for Arthritis. This family-friendly, fun, and festive 5K run/walk raises money to help the Arthritis Foundation while they search for a cure, and provide life changing information and support to people with arthritis. Please join me or donate on my behalf and make the holiday season merrier!
Please Click below to give or join. Any amount helps!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Why Can’t I Just Put Talented People in the Right Position and Be Successful?

                                                          --An excerpt from my book--

Too many times it has been tried in sports with no success. An eager owner, with too much money, buys the best talent available and puts them all on the same team. They never become a championship team. So the natural question is why? Simple, the Coach. You can have the most dynamic, talented team in the world but without structure and strong leadership they will ultimately fail. In most cases when a team of over achievers is put together, there are a lot of egos that come along with the talent. This requires an even stronger core structure and clear plan. If you take these people and put them together without strong leadership and structure, they will eat each other alive. Don’t get me wrong, if you can get a superstar on your team, you should always accept them. However, be sure that you are a strong enough leader to keep the team focused and not let distractions interfere with the primary objective. In many cases you can take an enthusiastic, less skilled group of people and turn them into a high performing team by giving them a clear vision and the proper support they require. This will time and time again, produce successful results. It will also have the added benefit of building your next level of leaders. As previously noted, rarely do you hire someone great; you build them through training and support. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Are you prepared for the Zombie Apocalypse?

Smart phones, tablets, clouds, electronic journals and day planners! It is hard to imagine a world without these awesomely powerful devices and repositories that we hold in our hands every day. Being an early adopter and also having over 30 years in the trade, it seems impossible that I was able to do my job before this smart technology was available. However, I did get it done, and actually I had an even better memory than I have today, but that is a topic for another article.

In today’s world it is not uncommon for people to have very few contacts, appointment, tasks, and emails committed to memory. I mean why bother? The smart devices handle all that for you. Have an appointment or meeting? Your device will remind you. Need to make a call? All you have to do is say the person’s name into your Bluetooth device and it will call a contact for you, no need to remember anything. In fact, I just got a new Bluetooth that actually reads my emails to me, eliminating the need for me to even pick up my smart phone to read the email. It does the same thing for texts and incoming calls. Again, great technology and it definitely makes things much safer for me when I am driving. However, when I was traveling last week I had a very enlightening moment and I thought it would be a good share for this week’s article.

I got up in the morning and went to a Denny’s for breakfast. When I walked in the door I noticed about seven other tables that had customers seated. I went up to the counter, since I was by myself, and asked for a whole wheat bagel dry. The waitress looked up at me with a perplexed expression and said, “Our POS system is down and you will have to wait until it is back online before you will be able to pay for it.”

I said to her, probably with an equally perplexed look on my face, “You can’t add it up manually?” At this point her look transformed to anger and she just walked away. A few minutes later she brought me my bagel.

After I finished eating, I sat there waiting for the system to come back on line. I then noticed that many of the other tables were sitting and apparently waiting for the same thing. A few minutes went by and the manager, as well as the waitress I had spoken with earlier, was trying to manually add up tickets on ‘old school’ white and green check tickets. It was quite a sight to see, with them looking up each item including drinks in the menu and transferring it to a paper ticket. Neither had any idea what the price was for any specific item.

They continued on and then started arguing about what the state tax was for Virginia. The waitress was adamant that it was 5.3% but the manager disagreed and said she was sure it was 10%. I looked it up on my phone really quick and tried to show it to them. However, after my earlier remark, my attempt to help was not well received. The manager continued to argue with the waitress and said you have to include county tax and she was sure it was at least 10%. So they started trying to manually add up the tickets and calculating the tax at 10%. Neither knew how to perform this simple calculation. Once again I opened my calculator app on my phone and asked them if they would like to use it. I again was met with nasty looks. Finally, I threw down a five dollar bill and told them when they figured it out they could keep the change and left.

This story really got me thinking about this type of situation and how prepared companies may be, should they lose their wireless/Smart technologies. It shouldn’t be overlooked considering that we lose connections all the time throughout any given month.

In my company, we are 100% paperless and depend greatly on the ever changing wireless technologies and smart devices. So I started asking all my team members to put together a “Zombie Apocalypse Plan”. Meaning that assume at some point we lose all wireless capabilities, computers and smart devices. Will you have a way to contact your customers? Will our field team members have a way to complete and document their jobs without their tablets? Do you have a price list and know how to manually calculate an invoice? In short, could we support our customers keeping the problem completely invisible to them? It may seem obvious, but I really wonder how many people in today’s world would even know how to call their friends and family if they lost their smart phone capability?

I always look for ways to improve, and this was a prime example of how it isn’t always learning what you should do, sometimes it is learning what not to do from observing others success or failure. I know we are stronger by having this back up plan in place and I suggest you also think about implementing your own plan both on a professional and personal level. When the time comes and you lose capability and connect-ability with technology will it be an inconvenience or a curse? Will the Zombies win?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Inspect What You Expect

Ok, so yes, this an old saying that has been heard thousands of times. However, it is astonishing how few people really follow the wisdom. There is a reason that old clich├ęs stick around for so long. They are very true!

Over the years I have seen many examples of companies that have built a great process around the execution of the tasks within their businesses. At the same time, I have seen them fall by the way side and close their doors. Most of the time, it comes down to simply not inspecting the team to ensure that the processes are being followed.

Recently, I had a similar situation I was dealing with that really drives this point home. I was talking with Bob and he was explaining to me how he continues to have issues in the field with his team. He had over a dozen “at fault” accidents, in company vehicles that were costing him a fortune since his company is self-insured up to 100K.

Bob was befuddled because he spent so much time training his team on how to be safe drivers. He had all driving team members take a defensive driving course, he prepared his own safe driving course, and had monthly meetings where he reiterated the teachings and importance of safe driving. Despite his continued focus, the accidents kept piling up. None were major accidents, just minor rear end bumps, but enough to cause damage to both vehicles.

Bob knew the problem was that his team members were distracted, more than likely by smart phones and tablets. But he had made it clear that they should pull over and stop before looking at any emails or answering their phones, regardless of whether or not they had Bluetooth. However, it was obvious his instructions were not being followed.

I asked Bob if his team had a record of not following directions. To which he replied,” No!” So we started going through his records. It was amazing all the process that Bob had built for his team. He had very structured protocol for how each team member was to fill out paper work, safety documentation, invoicing, even how they interacted with the customer. It was as if I had built the structure myself. However, once we started reviewing the documentation, it became apparent that none of the process he spent so much time building was being followed by the overwhelming majority of his team members. So I asked Bob what protocols he had in place to review and inspect that his processes were being followed.  He looked at me with a dazed look on his face. I asked him if he ever does QC checks on the jobsites to ensure the required processes he had in place were being followed. Again, nothing!

Bob just lowered his head and said, “I am an idiot! I have been so focused on building the right processes to create an excellent, repeatable, experience for my customers; I forgot the most important element, to inspect what I am expecting from my team!” I explained to Bob that without the inspection process, the team doesn’t realize how important this is to you. While yes, you spend the time and money to constantly remind them in meetings how important it is, if you are not checking to ensure the processes are being followed, it sends a different message to the team.

Now Bob has instituted a QC process to ensure not only the quality of the work and the customer experience, but also for the documentation side which tells him his processes are being followed. Additionally, with the installation of a GPS tracking system, even the driving element is now monitored. These changes have made a huge difference in the effectiveness of his team, as well as shown improvement to the bottom line. The fact is that when inspecting what you expect from your team, you are sending a clear and concise message that nothing less will be tolerated. ‘Buy in’ is a must!

While everyone wants to have the company that provides a level of excellence that blows the customer away, without a solid QC and inspection process, failure is the only thing you can truly expect.

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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

I am raising money to help the Arthritis Foundation. Please consider giving to this great organization by clicking on my team page and making a donation. We only have 46 days left before the big race day. Thanks to everyone in advance for your generosity and support.

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