This afternoon, I was a closing inspirational speaker for a customer service conference in pennsylvania.
Aware I would be late for my flight if I dil-ly dal-lied, I hightail it out after my motivational talk.
Now I am sitting at the airport for a flight that has been delayed two hours, due to inclement weather.
When a flight is delayed, the most important thing for a passenger is to be reassured that they will still get to their destination on time. Right now, people are nervously pacing around the flight gate praying their travel plans have not been foiled. Meanwhile, and the airline has communicated nothing.
The airlines failure to manage our delicate expectations in times of distress is a mistake. When left to our own judgement, most people make assumptions that are drastically wrong.
While we get our emotions all roiled up inside the terminal, the weather is clearing up outside and the flight situation is improving. Meanwhile, half the passengers have already alerted friends and family of a revised itinerary while nasty comments fly across twitter about the airline.
Some of the things the airline could do to manage customer expectations:
Under promise so you can over deliver.
If a customer has to wait 10 minutes...say it will take 12. Customers will be delighted when you manage to deliver in less time.
Stop inflating expectations.
Airlines that promote on- time departure are setting themselves up for failure. Nobody can control the weather.
Communicate clearly what customers can expect. Even tiny updates help put people at ease.
No news is not good news.
Communicate. Communicate. To better handle this situation the airlines should have continually announced what has happened and what is still unknown. Ambiguity of any sort ( ie...wait times) needs to be navigated in a delicate way. Saying nothing is the worst response.