40 Leadership Lessons from the Freedom Trail – #14

On the 31st August 2013, Lesley, my wife, and soul-mate retired after 35 years teaching in secondary schools. Two days later, as planned, we set off for a magical celebratory holiday, taking in New York, California and Oregon. Our trip became known as the ‘Freedom Trail’.

While on the Freedom Trail, I journaled every day and ended each entry with a leadership moment/lesson. Here’s another – with an apology for the pause in blogging regularity due to a web hosting change!

Sitting using a phoneLeaders need to be multi-channel, consistent and responsive

Today we flew from New York to San Francisco to begin our journey up the Pacific Highway by car. It was a great flight, and we soon arrived at our hotel in Japantown, the Hotel Tomo.

It was a wacky hotel, with very different architecture, layout and styling and we liked it. Unpacking our bags, we discovered, to our dismay, that Les could not find her mobile phone. Careful searching and retracing our footsteps led us to identify Les had left her phone on the plane.

Fortunately, the Tomo had excellent WiFi. A few quick Google searches and I had a number to call the airline customer services. That’s when our difficulties began. Getting the right person to speak to took an age. Passed from pillar to post, I eventually talked to the right person. She was quizzical and sceptical. I thought customer services were there to deal with my concern? She said she would look into my issue and call me back.

Over the next two days, I engaged in a dance between various customer service personnel, none of whom seemed to have a clue what the issue was. Eventually, after two days of waiting for calls, and chasing up their inaction, no phone had been found on a search of the plane.

I somehow anticipated this as an outcome. What I hadn’t anticipated was the sheer ineptitude of customer services. Talking to a succession of people, all of whom had little or no connection, or understanding of my case left me frustrated. I voiced my feelings about this and met a blank wall of indifference and false platitudes.

I concluded that this was not real leadership and, reflecting for my journal, identified some ways that it could be better. I provide my clients with quality customer service. I can be contacted across multiple channels, not just by phone. There are email, text and other social media channels to reach me. I keep proper written and electronic records of contacts made and actions under way. I advise others how to access these in my absence. Most of all, I emphasise courtesy, politeness and respect in all my actions, and in all of the actions carried out by others on my behalf.

I shared my thoughts with the last airline representative. I received false platitudes in return. I hope they have since improved their approach for the sake of all future customers with concerns.

What are your experiences of such services? Did you receive the service level you anticipated? How better might these services be provided?

Leaders need to be multi-channel, consistent and responsive – especially when dealing with customer concerns

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