Lucky's Blog

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Over The Edge

Today I wanted to write about the customer experience. While I have been called an expert in this area, I believe we all have to continually raise the bar if we want to continue to gain the competitive edge. Today I am going to tell you about my experience as a customer and where the contractor fell short.

Recently we had a bathroom remodel done in our home. We looked for the right contractor by asking many questions and reviewing several proposals from different contractors that wanted the job. We decided to go with; we will call them Company B. We choose Company B because we were talking directly with the owner and felt there was more of a personal touch by using them for our contractor of choice. There were several things discussed during the proposal stage, one of which being that I planned on doing all the electrical work myself since I am a licensed master electrician. 

Once we signed the contract Company B said they would be out the following week to start the demo. The first thing that happened was they were replacing a beam in our garage underneath the bathroom, and when it arrived, they offloaded it in our front yard. A 22-foot beam was just dropped in our yard with no warning. It just so happened that the next day was the schedule with our lawn guy to come out and cut our grass, which now couldn’t be done.

We reached out to the owner of Company B and told him that we need to have a schedule, so we know when people or materials are going to arrive. We can’t have surprises like this happened again. He apologized and said he would send a schedule. A couple of days later he called my wife and said that the demo crew would be there tomorrow. While this was some heads up, we still had not received a schedule. Since my wife didn’t have any hard plans, she said it was fine for them to come and start the demo that day.

Several people showed up that day, and started not only demo,but also started some of the improvements. I got home to a disaster but was glad to see progress. Then around 6 PM, after everyone left our doorbell rings and it is a plumber saying he is there to do work. We explained that I get up very early for work and I am usually in bed by 8 PM. The plumber said he wouldn’t be long, so my wife allowed him to work. The plumber didn’t leave until 10 PM and was banging and cursing the whole time. Later we found out that he was moonlighting and not a licensed plumber, so he had to work at night.

My wife received a call the next day from the owner telling her that the drywallers would be there the next day to start drywalling. I freaked out because how was I supposed to get the electric done if the drywall was already installed? I have a job, and it was made clear that I would need a weekend to work on the electric and get it done. The Owner told my wife it was only about an hour’s worth of work so he didn’t understand why I couldn’t do it when I got home. BTW, it wasn’t anywhere near an hours work; it was easily a full day’s work. Luckily, I was in a position that I could come home and get the work done, but it was a real inconvenience, and very poor planning and communication.

I could go on for pages and pages of all the horrible customer experiences we encountered during this four-week renovation, smoking in our home, leaving doors open with the A/C on for hours, cutting wood and drywall in the house, but I don’t want to bore everyone with all the details. Thank God it was only four weeks.

The owner did everything he could to try and make it up to us, but much of it could have been avoided had he just supplied us with a schedule and communicated better. One of the most important things to remember if you want to provide a great customer experience is respect. I teach this to every new team member we onboard. While we do not do any residential work, I think it is probably even more important if you do residential work to show the upmost respect to someone’s home and family when working. A simple schedule up front, better communication, and better training for his subs could have made a world of difference. 

We are planning another renovation in about six months, and we are still on the fence about giving Company B another shot. The owner did apologize, took our criticisms very well, and in the end, the completed job looks great! However, there are great lessons in respect and communication to be learned here to keep from pushing your customers over the edge.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Gotta Gain My Second

In today’s article I wanted to tell a story I haven’t told in a while. A few days back I was training a new team member on the Ultimate Customer Experience, and we got into talking about process improvement. We were both discussing how small incremental changes done consistently over time can have a huge impact on an organization. During this conversation, I was reminded of this story from my early football years. I used to use this story in many of my speaking engagements to explain the difference between good and great, so I figured I would share it today with everyone.

Many years ago when I was in high school, I played football for my high school team, the Southwest Miami High School Eagles. My primary position was Middle Linebacker, though I was known to play ironman football when needed. I was considered pretty good and had somewhat of a reputation around town. I will never forget when my coach came to me a few weeks before we were scheduled to play the South Miami High School Cobras. He was concerned about a defensive player that was known for eating quarterbacks. My coach asked me to play Left Guard for this game to try and slow this guy down, and give our quarterback a chance. I will admit I already had heard about this player and his almost superhuman strength and speed.

So over the next few weeks, I prepared by doing extra offensive drills, stepping things up in the weight room, and watching endless hours of film with my coach to make sure I was prepared and ready to knock this guy down a peg or two and continue our winning streak that year.
So after weeks of preparation, it was game time. We were the visiting team, so we arrived early to warm-up and start running drills. As we were warming up, I saw the guy I had been preparing for walk out of their locker room and start heading towards the field. I can remember thinking to myself, that is the guy all the drama has been about? He wasn’t that large in stature, and while you can tell he spent a lot of time in the weight room, he wasn’t what I expected. After warm-ups and before the start of the game, we had the ceremonial handshake portion where we all meet in the middle of the field before the start of the game. I went straight to him looked him straight in the eyes and said, “How are you doing? I heard you’re the second-best defensive player in Florida.” Without missing a beat and with a blank stare he said, “Funny, I heard the same thing about you.” After about what seemed like 5 seconds of hostile silence, he smiles and we started laughing. We chatted for about another 5 mins before we had to head to our sides of the field.
The Eagles won the coin toss, so we got the ball first. I was going to get to see what this guy was all about right out of the gate. As I trotted out onto the field, I would be lying if I didn’t say I was a little nervous, but I psyched myself up as usual and went into beast mode. We went into the huddle, and our coach had called a passing play on our first play. I know not very smart all things considered. Walking up to the line I started really getting fired up and was ready to hit someone. I hear the quarterback yell out; “Red 180, Red 180, set!” I don’t really remember hearing the hut part. Before I knew what happened, I was face down on the turf, feeling like I got hit by a train. I pulled myself up to my knees, shook my head and said to myself, “This is going to be a long day!”

 It was a long day. I never worked so hard in my life trying to keep this grizzly bear with pads away from our quarterback. My attempts failed when our star running back was leveled and had his shoulder dislocated by the monster.

After the game was over and we were beat badly, I went over to congratulate the man who showed me that I was not ready for the pros as I had lead myself to believe. As I complimented him on his gameplay he very humbly said thank you and went on to tell me what a great job I did. After scoffing off the compliment I said to him, I need to know what is your workout routine? How in the heck did you get so strong and fast? He went on to tell me, he gets up every morning at 4 AM and runs (notice he said runs, not jogs) almost five miles to school. The coach lets him workout in the weight room before class, so he spends about three hours working out before class, then showers and heads to class. Then, of course, he has weight training & football practice after school, which afterward he runs back home.

Completely astonished, I could only bring up the word “WOW!” He responded to that with, “I gotta gain my second!” Puzzled, I asked him what he meant. He went on to tell me that he grew up in a very poor household and spent time watching superior athletes. He started playing football at the age of three and knew he wanted to go pro. Not only go pro, but be the best ever. He went on to tell me that he noticed at a very early age while watching the Olympics, that the difference between the one who wins the gold and the one who comes in last is usually only about a second or two. He said, “Can you imagine training your whole life for a single opportunity, and then to lose by only one second? Not only lose, but not even win a medal?”  So he explained to me that is why he has to train so hard. He has to gain his second. If he wants a better life for himself and his family, if he wants to go pro, if he wants to be the best, then he needs to work harder than anyone else. If he wants to gain that second he has to put everything he has into getting that second. It is very rare that you would ever meet a teenager with that level of focus.

It has been many years since that day, but I still remember it as if it were yesterday. Not knowing it at the time, his words would set me on a path of always trying to gain a second. Whether you call it sharpening your ax, or gaining your second, the truth is, if you want to be the best, you have to work harder than anyone else at achieving your goals. I wake up every morning and ask myself, “what can I do today to make myself a better husband, a better father, a better leader?” I may not call it gaining my second, but there is no doubt that the superhuman Cobra I once faced help put me on the path I currently travel, an almost sick obsession with being the best at everything I do.

I have told this story several times in the past, and I am always asked; “So who is the superhuman guy?” his name was Derrick Thomas, the best defensive end to ever play in the NFL. I only wish I could have let him know before he died what an impact his words had on my life. Good luck and go gain your second!

Thursday, April 12, 2018

It’s In The Bag

It’s In The Bag

The other day my wife was telling me about an experience she had at the grocery store. She was checking out and noticed the special attention the bag boy was paying to her weekly purchases. She went on to tell me that he was very considerate in the way he took the time to organize the contents, keeping the cold products together, not bagging the bread or eggs under something heavy, etc. We all know that some of this is just plain common sense; however she went on to point out that he didn’t mix any of the cleaning chemicals with the food bags, and kept the chips from being crushed into bits. He also took the time to make sure that the bags were not overloaded or too heavy, just a little extra on his part went a long way with my wife.

My wife made it a point to tell the bag boy what a great job he did. He was very thankful and said he had just started there. My wife, being the person she is, went over to the manager to let him know what a fantastic job the bag boy did. The manager thanked her, then walked over and complimented the new hire on a job well done. Then to her surprise, that manager told her that he was going to hold a meeting with all of the bagging personnel to make sure that everyone understood the process this new employee had used, and to make it store policy from that point forward.

There are so many lessons to be learned here:

The importance of customer feedback: As I have explained in multiple articles, you have to know what your customers are thinking. You also need to react and modify your procedures to promote the best possible customer experience.

Catching your team members doing something right:  The manager could have easily waited to say something to the bag boy, or even overlooked such a compliment. But he didn’t! He stopped what he was doing and went right over to compliment him.

The power of NOW:  The manager made it a point to change standard procedure right then to enhance the customer experience. There was no waiting around, submitting ideas, waiting for approvals. He implemented something that had a direct effect on the customer without hesitation, a man after my own heart.

I am pleased to say for the record this was a Publix supermarket. Publix has a reputation for great customer service and this is why. They empower their managers to make decisions that directly affect the customer experience and help the bottom line. (No, I do not own any stock in Publix; in fact I don’t even have any friends or family that work there. I just believe in giving recognition where it is due.)

Everyone can learn from this story. It is not necessarily the big promotional events and advertising that makes the difference. It’s not always about the lowest price! The real difference is in the small things that you do for your customer to make them feel special and let them know you care. My father always told me that, “anything worth doing is worth doing right”. Luckily for Publix, this bag boy understood that also, and made a difference to a major corporation. While most people would think of a bag boy as a position of low importance, the fact is that anyone can make a difference, and you need to instill a culture where everyone can contribute to the best practices of your company. You need to immediately compliment your team when they do something right and you need to use the power of NOW. Why? 

Because, if you do, the rest will be in the bag!

Thursday, April 5, 2018

How Do You Eat An Elephant?

Overwhelmed? In this article I wanted to talk about just that, being overwhelmed. One of the most common questions I get asked is, “How are you able to do everything you do?” While it comes down to two major principles, one, knowing how to say no, and two, having good time management skills, that doesn’t mean I don’t get overwhelmed. Even the best-laid plans can lead to frustration or the feeling of being overwhelmed. Let me explain.

Many years ago I started with a new company and I was given two separate jobs to oversee as a Project Manager. They were roughly 100 miles apart and both jobs were already in the red and had customers and team members that were very upset. One of the jobs in particular was a complete mess. The job had a total of six phases and overall was very complex. The job was roughly 40% done on the first phase but had already spent over 80% of the entire budget for all six phases. On Monday, my first day on the job, I was verbally assaulted by the management team of the customer, as well as the superintendent for our company and several of our foremen. Apparently, the previous manager’s way to deal with being over budget was to not order any more material or equipment. This caused everyone on site to become frustrated. To make things even worse, the previous manager never reported anything in his projections to the main office about the fact that this project was going to lose money.

So my first step was to call our construction manager and let him know the condition of the project. His name was Jim, and as I was explaining to him what was going on he asked me, “Why do you think the job will run over budget?” I told him that it doesn’t take a CPA to figure out that if we are only 40% done with phase one and we have already spent 80% of the total budget, this job was going to lose money! His next question was how do I know that we are only 40% done with the first phase? Slightly offended, I started reading off my resume to him, and told him, based off the years I had in the trade I could assure him that we were about 40% done with phase one. He then said, “About? Before you told me we were 40%. So, which is it? 40% or about 40%?”

Nothing but silence filled the air. Before I could speak again, Jim spoke up and told me he wasn’t trying to be difficult. However, before we go to the President and tell him the job is going to lose money we need more than gray hair and guts as evidence. I didn’t know it then, but this was going to be my first lesson in being a quantitative manager and not an emotional manager, a skill that would be extremely beneficial over the remainder of my career.

After a job site visit on that Thursday from Jim he agreed we were in a pickle, to say the least. He then told me he wanted me to do a complete take-off of the entire job, what has been installed and what has yet to be installed. Then he wanted me to meet him in the main office at 7:00 AM on Monday. We would review the takeoff, compare it against what had been spent to date, and put together a revised projection of where this job would finish based on my takeoff.  Finally, once we had completed a full evaluation of the current condition of the project, we would meet with the president of the company and inform him about the bad news. Are you kidding me, I thought to myself! It is 3:00 PM on Thursday and you want me to do an entire take-off a 6MM dollar project that has six different phases and is highly complex?  Oh yeah, and then after my first week at the company, you want me to sit in front of the president of the company and tell him that this job is going lose millions of dollars? Again, this was all said on the inside. After biting my tongue, I explained to Jim I didn’t think I would be able to get an accurate take-off together that quickly. I further explained that I hadn’t even wrapped my head around the entire scope of work we were performing, not to mention review the contract, outstanding purchase orders, etc, etc, etc.  Jim patted me on the back and said relax and take a deep breath Lucky. I have faith in you that you can get this done on time.

 Jim affirmed it was an extremely complex project with a lot of moving parts, but then he asked me, “Lucky, how do you eat an elephant?” I stared at him completely baffled. Jim smiled and said if you look at an elephant it is quite intimidating. If someone said you had to eat an elephant, your first thought would be there is no way to complete such a task! I wouldn’t even know where to start. So Jim asked again, “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.”

Over the years I can still picture myself standing in the parking lot listening to Jim asking me that question. In today’s world, it is so easy to become overwhelmed. What with smartphones and computers we are always connected to our stressful environments. The ironic part is that we can still feel all alone in the battle. Many times it is easy to feel like you are on an island all by yourself. However, remember that you are rarely alone, and there are people that can help.

One of the main reasons people get overwhelmed is because they are too afraid, or too proud to ask for help. You need to remember your position is not unique and that many others have been in your position before, they had to learn how to handle those exact same problems. No one is born with total knowledge. If someone is in a leadership position, there is no doubt they made mistakes and had to learn how to do what they now make look so easy. Ask them for help. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, but the total opposite. Asking for help shows that you have the strength and confidence to say I don’t know how to get this accomplished.

When you find yourself becoming overwhelmed, the best action you can take is to break down what needs to be done into small bite-sized pieces. In the movie “What About Bob” (hilarious), they refer to this as ‘baby steps’, but either term is correct. The next time you are feeling overwhelmed, just stop, take a deep breath, and break down the tasks into small bite-sized pieces, because in the end… How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time!

Thursday, March 29, 2018

My Mom The Manager

This week I wanted to talk about being an effective manager and leader. In most of my articles, I talk about some of the amazing people I have had the opportunity to work with and the effect they had on my professional career. No doubt you have heard me talk about my father and the influences he has had on my life. But today I wanted to talk about my mother. Why? Because I think that many of the qualities that one needs to be a great leader are the same qualities we learn from our mother. In today’s article, I am going to touch on a few important traits that are needed to be an effective leader and how they relate to our earliest remembrances of learning.

While I believe there are 22 main qualities, skills, or traits you need to be an effective leader I am only going to touch on three for the purpose of this article. At the end of the article, I will add the complete list of these qualities, skills, or traits with no elaboration that I believe are needed in order to be an outstanding leader in today’s world.

Quality 1: Stoicism – I believe this must be one of the most important qualities of a true leader. You need always to keep everyone pointed in the right direction and emotionally charged to stay on track and achieve the goals you have set. My mom was an expert at this; I can remember growing up and just being a happy kid. My mom would take me to the park or just for a walk down “Miracle Mile” in Coral Gables. It didn’t cost anything, but these are some of my fondest memories. Little did I know that the reason we went for walks was because we didn’t have money to go anywhere else. My mom would make a game out of collecting green stamps and putting them in the books. Then after we had filled up enough books, she would take me to the green stamp store to spend on a toy. We would go to second-hand stores for clothes, but she made it a fun activity, making it feel like a treasure hunt. She never let on that we were struggling even to put food on the table. To me everything was great. This trait is important for a leader in today’s world. As managers, we all face some very tough times and it is easy to vent or show our emotion, but we need to contain these feelings and keep our team positive and focused. If you show your struggles, you can cause worry or panic amongst your team, and in most cases, it isn’t something about which they need to be concerned. It is your job to shield your team from the pressure and stress. They will have enough of their own stress and pressure to deal with, so don’t add your load to their shoulders.

Quality 2: Empathy – Having empathy and actually caring about your team, is one of the most overlooked qualities a leader needs. I don’t need to go into a whole lot of examples of how my mother would constantly show how much she cared, or how she could tell when I was feeling down and would find ways to cheer me up or take my mind off my worries. Most everyone can relate to the fact that your mother loved and cared about you and had her own way of lifting your spirits. I say that empathy is a lost skill in management today because too many people try to fake empathy and caring about their team. I believe that as a leader it is your responsibility to help every team member you have to be as successful as they can possibly be, both at work and in life. You truly have to care about them and their families. A true leader must understand that everything isn’t about what they need and sometimes life gets in the way of their team. I used to teach about balance and making sure that your team had a balanced life. However, in today’s world, it is getting harder and harder for anyone to find balance with the completely connected world of devices we all share. But, we still need to be empathetic to our team and always try to see everything from their perspective before reacting.

Quality 3: Patience – This is also one of the top skills a leader needs. It is also one of the most difficult to achieve. While many of you reading this article might not have had a mother that exercised great patience, my mother had the patience of a saint. Lord knows I tested it on a daily bases. Whether it was starting a fire by accident in one of the rooms of our house, or breaking a glass insert by the front door, my mother would always listen to me before reacting. Now don’t get me wrong, once she listened, if I was in the wrong or just a plain idiot, there were consequences, but that was yet another great leadership quality she possessed. In the quick paced world we live in today, it can be very difficult to stop what you are doing, clear your head, and take the time to listen to a team member’s question, explanation, or excuses. I know in my case many times I am going at a hundred miles an hour and just want to get past this issue and back to what I was doing. This is one area that I will always be working to improve in myself. But I promise if you practice patience you will start hearing things that will help not only you becoming a better manager, but also helping your entire team become a better unit. Many times when there is a problem it exists across your entire company, and only by practicing patience and active listening can you identify the issue and correct the problem permanently.

As I said, I am going to keep this article short and only cover these three qualities but believe me; I could write a book if I went more in-depth on each quality and covered all 22 traits I believe are required. Also, please understand that I know I will hear from many of you that I forgot some important qualities, and you are probably correct. This isn’t meant to be a complete, all-encompassing list, but from my experience, this covers some of the top qualities needed to be an effective leader.

As promised below is the complete list, including the ones listed above, of qualities, skills, or traits I believe a true leader needs to be effective.

Humility          Empathy       Integrity       Authenticity     Inspirational             Accountability
Stoicism           Passionate        Patience      Visionary       Sense of Humor       Open Minded
Delegation       Empowerment        Mentorship                 Persistence               Approachable   
Communication   Insightfulness     Decisiveness               Positivity                  Generosity        

Thursday, March 22, 2018

The Voodoo That We Do

It is never more than a few days between each time I am asked how does your team do what they do? From the outside looking in, I understand it might seem complicated to others. However, the truth is the only real trick to running a world-class organization with a passion for customer service is hiring the right people, providing them with the right training, giving them the proper tools to succeed, giving them the proper support, and then watching them flourish.

Now don’t get me wrong, it took a lot of hard work and heavy lifting to get to where we are today, and we still have a lot to do since every day new processes and technologies are changing our industry, and we need to stay ahead of what the future brings. However, as long as the leaders continue to follow the processes built, support their team, and continue to breed the proper culture, their team will start to gain a synergy and their business will start to become its own living organism. THAT IS WHERE THE MAGIC HAPPENS!

Yesterday I was reminded of this and felt I just had to share. We have a young and eager new manager (we will call him Joe to avoid his embarrassment) who started his career seeded in our culture. Joe was never allowed to be influenced by others, so he only knows our way, and flourishes in this environment. As a manager in our group, part of your responsibilities include business development. As I have said many times, everyone shares business development responsibilities in our business. Joe seems to have a natural ability in sales that I would put up against some of the most seasoned salespeople I have met in my career.

One day while doing some cold calling, one of the worst and least effective ways to build a business, Joe reached out to a local facility manager. This wasn’t the local A&P manager, but this was someone who is well known in the industry for having some of the largest, highest profile facilities in the city. By sheer luck, he reached this manager at the perfect time, when he was extremely frustrated with their current service provider. The FM said he would be happy to talk with Joe about what we could do to support their company. After a couple more phone calls, Joe set up a lunch with this FM and his entire team.

Now let’s take a quick sidebar to discuss what happened here. A brand spanking new manager, whose secondary responsibility is to build a business, reached out to the most notable FM in the city. He didn’t start crawling; he came out of the gates at full speed and hit a home run while doing it. These actions truly speak to his character, but it doesn’t end here.
I was fully expecting to pay for a big lunch for several people that would listen to us talk, and then the lunch would end with “thanks we will be in touch.” However, my manager was very excited about this and needed my support, so without a thought I made my arrangements and flew into town to help him, knowing that it would be a good learning experience for him no matter what the outcome of the meeting.


We arrived a little early to discuss strategy, but all in all felt confident in our ability as a company and our brand “The Ultimate Customer Experience”™. When the FM and his team arrived, we had quick introductions and went inside the restaurant.

I have to say I have never felt more comfortable with a potential customer in my 30+ years of meetings, we were a perfect cultural fit for each other. The FM and his team were interested in relationships, level of service, quality, and their internal culture was an exact parallel to ours. It was the perfect match. In fact, the Operations Manager said to us “this feels like going to a singles bar and meeting your soul mate!” While you can rarely determine that level of culture match, it was truly refreshing to be a part of it and to know that this was a huge boost for Joe. Joe went back and forth with them for the entire lunch. He knew everything there was to know about them, their company, the company’s owner, etc. If I had an earpiece in Joe’s ear and was telling him what to say I couldn’t have given him better words to say or information to use. In fact, I can honestly say I couldn’t have done better myself. Joe was a natural. I heard the words I have been speaking for decades coming out of his mouth! At a few points, he humbled me by telling them the reason for our success and brand was because of me, my support, training, and processes built. However, I know that the actual reason we are successful is that we have built a group of amazing team members. As I sat through the lunch, listening to the conversations, I knew this was going to be a huge win for our team and the FM team. But more importantly, this would be a long-term relationship between two great companies.

And it all started with a young man who sat across from me when he was first hired and told me, “I will be your best team member and make no mistake I want to be in management!”


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/