Executives: Do you not know? OR …Do you not care?

Years ago I read a wonderful post by Ted Coine titled, Dear CEO:  Who tells you when your baby is ugly?

The post resonated loudly, because as an employee and as a customer I have wondered…  

Over the past 41 days, I’ve asked that question at an increasingly high level…

This summer my husband and I traveled from our expat lives on one side of the world to a dream vacation spot and then traveled some more, to visit family on the other side of the world.  …Which means that we caught a lot of connecting flights.

On the way there – NOT ONE flight left on time.  …But that was MINOR compared to our experiences coming home and our experiences since then.  

Below are just a few of the highlights:

  • We paid two excess baggage fees. Cost: $550.00
  • Our second connecting flight was cancelled, causing us to miss our third connecting flight. Resulting in a 24-hour layover. Cost: 24 hours of our time.
  • When we arrived at our final destination our two excess bags had been cut open and the top half of the contents were removed. Cost: Over $1,900.00 and emotional attachment.  (The items that were taken were a variety of supplies for our expat lives, souvenirs from our recent vacation, and little treasures from previous vacations.)
  • Since our arrival we’ve inventoried, created a detailed spreadsheet, tracked down receipts, scanned passports, and repeatedly attempted to communicate through one-sided systems, and poor processes to get reimbursed for even a portion of what we lost. Cost: 30 additional hours of our time and counting…

Our experiences have resulted in an ongoing opportunity to discover specific places where this airline and their partners could improve.

  • And even if they don’t care to improve for the benefit of their customers –
  • Logic says they should care about opportunities to improve their customer service ratings, their customer retention, and their revenue.

I’ve chosen not to include this airline’s name in the post, because I have not decided yet – if their executives don’t know or don’t care. However…

  • Because it’s been almost impossible to reach anyone above a the level of a supervisor
  • Because I have not been able to obtain an email address to anyone with any authority, or anyone that has been empowered to use this story to create positive change for their organization
  • And because I have not been able to reach the CEO in a private or direct message on Social Media…  I will be Tweeting him when this post is published

If you are in any service industry – I challenge you to read through the details below, and then consider how well your organization would serve your customers in a situation like this.  

Your processes, systems and service: What we want:
Requires us to enter a lot of basic information about who we are, what flight we were on and what happened in your website EACH TIME we want to communicate with you or follow up with your customer care department about our claim. A system that saves our required information the first time so we are only typing communications, not re-entering data.
Provides a website that does not work consistently when we press submit. A website that works consistently.
Causes the information we enter to disappear from the screen when the submission does work. An instant email sent to us with a copy of our communication to you, the date it was sent, a timeline and next steps.
Provides an eventual response from a “do not reply email” This communication does not include a phone number.   So although a customer service representative is named there is NO WAY we cannot contact them directly with questions. To have someone assigned to “own” our problem. Someone that knows what is going on, and can give us timelines, and help us get resolution.
• Provide their direct email and phone number.
•Their email signature should provide e a link to rate their customer service, and an opportunity to include   comments.
• Which A: Holds them accountable.
• And B: Provides a way for the customer to communicate ongoing concerns to titled leadership.  If the first step in the process fails.
Only allows us to attach documents at a time, in particular formats. (And then start the entire process again – re-entering data…)  We needed to submit 11 documents and 4 photos. To be able to add all of our documentation on the first try, in the format it is in. (How many customers do you have that can’t convert a word file into a PDF?)
Ask us to submit copies of our passports on your unsecure website, later we were asked to supply banking information through the same unsecure website. A secure website.
Provides no direct contact to human beings that have the authority to act on our behalf and no easy way to access a titled leader or your executives. (We’ve scoured your website, made numerous phone calls, submitted several updates to our case on your website, and been in contact with your Facebook team.) To be able to contact someone at the next level or at the executive office electronically if your processes and systems fail.

 As customers, we don’t expect perfection.

  • We know that background checks can’t prevent all future theft.
  • We know that people make mistakes, and that processes and systems occasionally fail.
  • However, when those things happen we do expect you to make an effort to understand our experience, to own your mistakes, and to make the correction as easy as possible for us. 

 Your actions determine if we seek to do business with your competitors or if we will become your raving fans.

  • And yes, we have become raving fans of other companies because their service recovery more than made up for their mistakes.

2.5 Months after we filed our claim, a partner airline resolved our issue with a full refund and two $250.00 travel vouchers.  

(The original airline’s Twitter and G+ account never responded to the post and the CEO never responded to an email, a private LinkedIn message, or to a Twitter post.)  

President, Giana Consulting

Chery Gegelman is an adventurer that loves to learn. ...Deep conversations, books, travel, and daily living are all food for growth.

As a speaker, facilitator and workshop leader she creates energizing environments that reflect God's grace, tear down walls, help people to consider new perspectives, and inspire change.

Chery is the Founder of Giana Consulting and Conversation Safari's, listed as a Great Leadership Speaker by Inc., writes a recognized leadership blog and has co-authored two leadership books.

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11 thoughts on “Executives: Do you not know? OR …Do you not care?

  1. First of all, Chery I am so sorry to hear about this crazy experience for you and your husband. That airline is uncaring, not interested in customer perspectives and doesn’t deserve to keep on going.

    If we don’t value input from our customers they will eventually leave to find companies who see our worth. I did this with a horrible car purchase years ago. The reports came out with all these problems about a car I newly purchased and the car company didn’t want to help me or deal with me. I never bought another car from the company again!

    Thanks Chery!

    • Thank you Terri!

      The evidence is really powerful right now that they don’t care. ~At the same time, I can’t help but think of my first big consulting job. …After exposing one of the executives to a focus group with their customers, and then sharing additional examples of how their current system did not meet the needs of their customers with the CEO the CEO admitted that it had been years since he really had any working knowledge of operations.

      I read this quote again yesterday and think it sums up what happens to many executives: “Linger too long at high altitudes, and your hearing dulls and your eyesight dims.” Max Lucado

  2. Oh my gosh! I feel your frustration! You are definitely someone who rolls with the punches, but at some point, organizations can make it so hard for employees and customers, patience simply disappears.

    I hope that your amazing adventure and time at home are not tarnished by this unsatisfying and extremely frustrating end. This company has a chance to make it better and I hope that they care enough to do just that.

    Reminds me of a great dinner my husband and I had in Vegas years ago. It was romantic, creative and delicious. At the end of the meal, we both ordered a cup of coffee and it was burnt and absolutely disgusting. Looking back, we vaguely remember the experience, but will never forget how they topped it off with terrible coffee and really could care less.

    Hope your issues get resolved ASAP!!


    • Thanks Alli! The vacation was still wonderful!

      As I debated about writing this post, I intentionally chose not to blast the company publically. I want to give them every possible opportunity to learn and grow. …Believing that there is a good chance that they have simply been spending so much time looking at profit and casting a future vision that they’ve forgotten about continually checking in with their customers and improving their current operations.

      Yesterday their CEO accepted my LinkedIn request, and I sent him a private mesage with a link to the post. And last night I filled out one of their customer service evaluation forms, and copied and pasted much of the blog post, and included a link to the post. So best case: A resolution is on the way.

      Worst case: My customers and network will benefit from the story!
      …And other airlines will take note! 🙂

      • Chery,

        This is a wonderful example of leading with character – and it’s exactly what I would expect you to do 🙂 It will be interesting to see if the CEO takes any action. Please do let us know with a follow up post.

        SO bummed that your dream vacation ended on such a bummer note. But as usual, you are making lemonade out of lemons!

        • Thank you Jennifer!

          The entire experience made has caused me to re-live many of the emotions I felt when I pushed for system-wide change from the middle of an organization. (The first half of this post goes into detail about one of those experiences ~ https://consultgiana.com/healing-the-racial-gap-between-the-dream-the-reality/)

          So there have been moments I’ve been really frustrated, moments I’ve been tempted to give into some serious victim thinking, and moments I wanted to blast the problem all over social media… Followed by moments of seeking first to understand and making the choice to keep trying to communicate with grace and truth.

  3. Hi Chery

    I loved the power and passion of your post … and really felt the pain of the experience too. Having experienced similar in my wanderlust career of travelling the globe, I know how that feels … and I truly empathize!
    The catalog of downright shoddy service and mediocrity of customer care and service you detail is appalling! My guess is they don’t care – you buy their service and they give you what they want!
    I hope they are, in the words of Ted Coine and Mark S Mark Babbitt in their recent fabulous book, #AWorldGoneSocial, destined for extinction!

    By the way, speaking of Ted, thank you so much for the link to his brilliantly titled post! I’d missed that one. Not only did the post title make me really chuckle, but also the points made in the post really resonated too.

    I sincerely hope that matters improve and that someone in authority has the decency to intervene. You could always make up a song and go viral on YouTube like that guy who sang about Delta Airlines – I think it was Delta? I know it was massively funny, wickedly pointed, and it did cause them huge embarrassment and loss of reputation!

    Take care and kind regards


    • Hi John,

      LOL! Maybe, I have a hardhead or rose-colored glasses… As you and Terri are both leaning towards not caring! Your comment about being destined for extinction made me laugh!

      I’m so glad you like Ted’s post! I read it years ago and think of it often.

      I REALLY laughed trying to imagine me singing a song to make the point. And I don’t think I’ve seen that video. As soon as my internet speeds up, I will be hunting for that! ~ Thanks for the recommendation!

  4. Chery, oh my. I’m so sorry that you are going through this. Someone already said it, but I’ll say it again. You are handling this like the character-based leader that you are.

    I would have a hard time letting go too. I know one of my issues is that “I must have just not gotten to the right person yet, because SURELY someone would care about this. There’s so much at stake.” Sadly, that is not always true.

    And at the same time, I think certain challenges are put in front of us, that we care passionately about like no one else, to make a difference, like no one else. You go, girl!

    • Yes Mary – that thought has run through my mind…

      “I must have just not gotten to the right person yet, because SURELY someone would care about this.”

      Assuming that the CEO may not check LinkedIn frequently, I gave him a couple of days. I just Tweeted him. …Now we’ll see.