Why Didn’t You Tell Me?
Terminal B at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport was my overnight host Sunday night. It was almost midnight Sunday night before I finally heard the words “cancelled flight.” It was really bad weather, and I was on one of 67 flights that got cancelled.
Many of us sat at the gate from 6:30 until we heard those fateful words at nearly midnight. And as we watched the departure time change roughly every 15 minutes, we all started to get a bit angry. Finally, one young man almost lost it. All because there was no communication from our gate agents.
In a crisis situation, clear, consistent, and frequent communication is critical. When you don’t tell your people what is going on, they fill in the blanks with frustration, negativity, anxiety, and lots of other negative emotions.
Fortunately, most of us had weather aps on our phones, so we knew when a tornado warning was issued. The gate agents didn’t tell us. They also didn’t communicate about the mechanical issue or that the pilot was concerned about the route because of the weather. We knew all of this because an experienced traveler continued to go to the gate and ask questions. Then he would share the info with folks around him, who would share it with folks around them.
Imagine if the gate agents had put themselves in our shoes, or had really treated us like a part of their family, like so many large companies tell us we are. If they had acknowledged our frustration and stress by simply sharing status updates regularly, even to say we don’t know anything new, they could have built trust and relationship with us for their organization. Instead, they filled their time joking with each other, talking among themselves, and ignoring us.
As a customer, you want to be treated with respect, with dignity. That night, we all needed a little warmth and compassion, a little empathy, some real customer service. But that night, it didn’t exist.