Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
They announce. They apologize. They might even throw up their hands.
When it comes to flight delays, airlines in the U.S. tend to respond with the minimum of care, because their organizational structures are based on tight margins and giving (for free) only when it's absolutely unavoidable.
Passengers sometimes sit in gate areas, as their flight delay moves from one hour to three -- or five -- and wonder whether it has to be this way.
Well, here's a recent example that might make U.S. passengers weep.
Marvin Tomandao, an Economy Class passenger, was stuck at Singapore's Changi Airport last Friday, undone by a Xiamen Airlines plane that had overshot the runway at Ninoy Aquino Airport in Manila.
His Singapore Airlines flight to Manila was delayed twice.
Yet listen to Tomandao's description, posted to Facebook, of how the airline reacted. There are 10 stages:
1. Singapore Airlines Manager Haziq Sulaiman would go to the mic every so often, to deliver clear updates about our flight and the situation in Manila. He would apologize at the start of every announcement, as if the NAIA runway overshoot was his fault.
2. Right after the first announcement of delay was made, SQ rolled out unlimited sandwiches, muffins and drinks.
3. A little later, we were all instructed to line up for a one-by-one instruction about our accommodation for the night.
4. We were all given five-star hotel rooms, buffet dinner and limo cab service to and from the hotel.
5. Three SQ Managers were at the hotel lobby, early in the morning, to facilitate our swift checkout and made sure we get cabs to the airport.
6. When we arrived back at the airport, they provided special lanes for the cancelled Manila flights, making sure we checked in the fastest.
7. Back at the boarding gate, again, unlimited sandwiches, muffins and drinks.
8. An announcement about another hour and a half delay was made. Right after the announcement, we were given a $15SG voucher each for breakfast at specifically appointed restaurants.
9. Before flying, all passengers were given a flight delay survey, to help the airline assess how they handled the situation.
10. Upon clearance to fly, a number number of SQ Managers lined up on our way to the plane to apologize for the last time and wish us all a pleasant flight
Singapore Airlines has a long history of customer service.
It can be meticulous to the point of neurosis.
It seems, though, that the airline bothers to spend money on something that doesn't have an immediate return.
Tomandao put it like this, when talking to the Straits Times:
Take out all the 'excesses' provided by SQ... it's the compassion for inconvenienced passengers that was truly outstanding.
If you treat people beyond their expectations, you might just build up a loyalty.
But you have to want to do that. You have to want your customer service to be a genuine differentiator.
Many U.S. airlines don't think it's worth it. It's a business decision.
And then they wonder why, all too often, every little mistake they make gets magnified by unhappy passengers going to the media.