How many of us LOVE to sit on a cramped airplane for 30 to 40 minutes or more, either at the gate or in a seemingly endless line of planes for takeoff, without any explanation from the crew regarding the reason for the delay, how many planes are ahead of you, or how much longer you will be delayed?  This is especially the case when you are wedged in on a regional jet which is best described as a sewer tube with two jet engines mounted on the rear.

airplane on a sunny dayWhy an airline pilot, supposedly a professional who has as much at stake in customer satisfaction scores as anyone else at the airline, would leave everyone in the dark is baffling.

It is also crummy, unacceptable customer service.  The problem is that poor communications with passengers – their customers — is more common than the airlines will admit.  

Now, here is the really interesting part: if your airline and its regional affiliates are currently at, or near the bottom of the customer satisfaction list, assuaging customer frustration with better communication is something that can be accomplished without costing anyone a dime.  Imagine that, improved service — happier customers — at no cost?  But then this is an industry that has shortened their seat belt length so that even people with 38 to 40 inch waistlines can barely buckle up.  Really?  Really?  Is it really worth the few pennies saved on material per belt at the cost of uncomfortable and irritated passengers?

Lest you think I am being unfair to the airlines – and they richly deserve the criticism – my industry, healthcare, has more than its fair share of customer service/poor communication warts, which in the case of hospitals and doctors can lead to unnecessary lawsuits or worse, like a short sighted desire by an airline to trim costs with little regard for customer comfort, a loss of consumer confidence and business.

There is a common theme at play here:  poor communication, and in some cases, arrogance.

To adapt an old saying — ignorance (read: poor communication) gets you in trouble.  Arrogance keeps you there.

Customer satisfaction, like quality, once it is lost is difficult and expensive to regain.

By the way, when the first officer finally communicated with us regarding our new, delayed estimated time of arrival, it would have been nice if she could have gotten the verb tenses correct.

© 2013 John Gregory Self