Simple Customer Service
By stern on Jun 21, 2006
Many of the problems I experienced in Boston were due to bad communications; the inbound flight was delayed due to weather, but then the engineering crew didn't set an expectation with the airline about when the plane would be ready for departure. As a result, we watched the estimated boarding time slip 15 minutes at a time for well over an hour, like someone hitting the snooze button from ramp control. Tell your customers what's going on, set expectations for when a decision can be made, and what you'll do if the decision isn't the one they were expecting, and you'll have happy customers. Simple information makes people feel empowered; take away the information and you treat your customers as if they're your property. Ignore problems, ignore the grumbling, and anticipate a single (and possibly unlikely) outcome, and your customers read between the lines.
Half of the people on both my Washington and Boston flights were making connections in Newark. Continental has moved all of its short-haul flights into lovely Newark Terminal A, while the longer-haul and hub flights use the new, Dunkin Donuts equipped, dual-Presidents Club Terminal C. They've spun up a shuttle bus that takes people from the A-gates to the C-gates, eliminating the need to exit, take the airport train two terminals, re-enter through the security checkpoint, and then run through another terminal. At the hour my flights were arriving, the shuttle bus wasn't running, and dozens of customers were looking at missing 8-to-10 hour flights because a 45-minute flight was delayed.
Continental did the right thing: they brought our flights right into Terminal C, close to where the widebodies were parked, so that every passenger had a chance to make connections. I was the one taking the train back to my car, but I'm glad that the connecting passengers were vectored to vacations and business trips without infrastructure limits adding Jersey insult to weather injury. Each passenger who wakes up from a trans-Atlantic nap today will remember that Continental took a simple step to fulfill their obligation to customer service, and will likely be more loyal because of the experience.