No one, and certainly no company is perfect. Things go wrong. I’m not suggesting that we should look forward to things going wrong, but we should give at least small praise to people and companies who do well when things go wrong. That’s what I’m doing today. Ironically, these two stories are related to problems encountered during travel, a subject I normally rant about. From ranting to praise? That’s the difference that people, and technology can make.
During my business trip to Washington, DC, I returned from dinner one night and found that my key-card wasn’t working. I was tired, it was late and our meeting was scheduled to resume early the next day. I went to the front desk, where a nice young woman apologized and rescanned my key-cards.
They still didn’t work.
When I returned to the desk, the woman called her supervisor. He accompanied me to my room, and when I inserted the key-card, he said: “oh, I see, the batteries are dead.”
Being the geeky guy that I am, I always wondered about electronic locks and power issues. I assumed that they were battery operated, since there are no visible wires, but I always wondered if the lock units were autonomous or if they somehow, wirelessly, had to call the mothership. Apparently, they are autonomous, battery powered and they communicate battery status with a flashing light sequence.
The Hotel Engineer had left for home about 25 minutes earlier. As the supervisor began working the list of people who could change the battery, the woman suggested that I could wait in the lounge, and said that I could order anything I wanted from the bar.
I quietly questioned the wisdom of offering free alcohol to a man who could very well become increasingly frustrated during the evening.
She offered to change the channel on the TV set in the lounge. She extended her bar offer to the snacks in the self-serve market place. She promised to keep me informed. She let me know who had been called, his ETA and that she had already retrieved a set of spare batteries for him to install.
35 minutes later, I was told that I could return to my room. Before I returned, the woman gave me two $13 dollar (I know, odd amount) gift cards that could be used at the bar.
Last week, as my 6:00 am flight to Atlanta began to taxi to the runway, the pilots “exercised” the control surfaces. Rather than that all-too-familiar “whir whir whiiiiirrrrr” sound, we heard a series of clunks, and we felt small vibrations. ‘Clunk, clunk, shake’ is never good on a plane.
“This is your pilot. We’re having a slight mechanical issue. A maintenance team is on its way out to check our hydraulic system.”
“This is your pilot. The maintenance team has requested that we return to the gate so they can effect repairs.”
“This is your pilot. Delta’s home office requests that you remain on the plane while the maintenance team completes these repairs. We should be underway shortly.”
“This is your pilot. The maintenance team is going to remove a hydraulic pump from another plane and install it on this plane. We should be underway shortly, but you are free to return to the gate.”
This was mildly disturbing, as it sounded like something I might have done when I used to maintain my Dodge pickup truck.
“This is your pilot. Repairs are underway. We should be ready to depart by 9:00 am.”
Accck! My connecting flight to Orange County, California was scheduled to leave Atlanta at 9:55 am, and BDL to ATL is a 2-hour flight.
By the time I was off the plane, there were about 150 people in line at the gate. It was 7:15 am. I opened the Delta App on my iPhone. The app “knew” that my flight had problems, and immediately presented me with two options: 1) I could rebook from the app. 2) I could contact Delta. I decided to try human contact first.
The voice mail system answered my call by name and the computer voice let me know that they were aware of the problem with my flight. I was told that I was being transferred to a representative that could help me.
Despite preparing myself for a long wait time, a woman answered within 15 seconds. A human woman.
“Hello Mr. Antion. I see we are having some trouble with your flight. Can you tell me what you need to do today?”
“Hi, I need to get to Orange County Airport, no later than 5:00 pm, Pacific Time. Also, I had booked Economy Comfort seats and I would prefer having the extra legroom, at least on the longer flight.”
“I can understand that. Give me a few minutes, please.”
Within a few minutes, she had me booked on a flight leaving BDL at 8:15 am, flying through Minneapolis and arriving in CA at 1:09 pm – Economy Comfort all the way.
“Is there anything else I can do for you? Do you have any questions?”
“Will someone know to move my luggage to the new flight?”
“I have already requested an expedited move for your bag.”
The bag tracking option in the app confirmed that. I looked over that the gate, and the attendant was still helping the same customer. I love it when technology works!