My wife and I were planning a short trip to Arizona during spring break with our 3-year-old daughter and our 8-month-old twin boys. For those of you who don’t know the rules of flying, children under the age of two fly free if they sit on an adult’s lap. You can have one child per adult lap. In order for us to get the twins to Arizona for free, my wife and I would both have to be present for the flight.
We booked the trip weeks in advance and we were all looking forward to some time away from cold Kansas City. As fate would have it, I had a business opportunity present itself at the last minute that would force me to be in Pittsburgh a few days prior to our trip. The timeline of events for this business trip, however, allowed me to catch the very last flight back to Kansas City the night before my family was scheduled to leave for Arizona. I would be able to return home and get my family to the airport in time for our trip. Schedule intact. Or so I thought.
As the story goes, after a successful business trip, bad weather disrupted all plans and my flight back to Kansas City got cancelled.
Because I travel quite frequently, I knew the drill. I had to call the frequent-flyer number and they would book me on the next flight out. In this instance, however, that option wasn’t going to cut it. As I dialed the number, I already knew that this problem would inevitably interrupt my plans and prohibit me from making it back to Kansas City in time to get catch the flight to Arizona, which left early in the morning.
A few moments later, as the customer service representative gave me my options over the phone, I could feel my blood start to boil. I could tell she was reading from the manual that she had in front of her. Not necessarily her fault. Maybe she was new? But I literally heard the pages rustling in the background as I was explaining my issue.
I could tell I was I was not getting through to her. Every time she gave me an option for my flight I had to reiterate my circumstance and that the solutions she was suggesting weren’t going to work. I couldn’t stress enough that if I didn’t make it back to Kansas City by takeoff, my wife and kids wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane. Those were the rules. They weren’t my rules. But they were the rules.
Feeling frustrated, I politely asked to speak to the supervisor on duty to try and get this issue resolved. She obliged and passed me off to her supervisor. This was it. My last chance at getting something worked out. Surely the supervisor would be able to help resolve my problem.
While the supervisor was polite and seemed to understand the issue at hand, the only solution he could provide mimicked that of the customer service representative. He was trying to book me on the next flight. He wasn’t listening to what I was saying to him. He wasn’t trying to make sure that my family and I were able to keep our plans intact and catch the flight to Arizona the following morning.
Frustration level – all time high. I had already accepted that plans were going to have to change but I was amazed that a supervisor couldn’t offer me any help. Somewhere along the lines we must have lost our understanding that customer service is about listening to the customer and solving problems, maybe not perfectly, but with actual effort. Not reading from a manual like a robot!
Ready for the real kicker? I knew I had some extra airline points from a competing airline. I called them, explained my issue to a supervisor, and they resolved the situation in less than ten minutes. They actually helped me SOLVE the problem!
I had a major takeaway from this experience. One that reiterated what I’ve been witnessing in the workforce for quite some time now. Why do companies continue to operate with this 20th-century mentality where they keep moving people up the ladder and placing them in positions in which they are not ready?
Have today’s leaders been intentionally developed to take on their roles? And not only their roles but everything they entail? I understand that people may be competent and deserving of promotions, but to put someone in a leadership role without development almost always assures some form of failure.
Leadership development affects EVERY aspect of your company. For whatever reason, whether it’s pride or penny pinching, not developing emerging, high-potential talent has become all too common in today’s 21st-century workforce. Winning is hard enough in business. Why put yourself in a situation where you aren’t set up for success?