If you love your business, get involved

November 28, 2011

I had tired of the grouchiness of the Air Canada staff that welcomes you into their lounge at Pearson Airport, so I chose to spend my pre-flight time at the Priority Club, an alternate choice for frequent flyers and one not affiliated with an airline. The lounge was empty except for the presence of a dozen Air Canada pilots, enjoying their own company, and displaying boisterous good humour.

This observation is in sharp contrast to my experience with Porter Airlines the week prior. Porter Airlines are a relatively new regional airline whose hub is Toronto City Airport, and whose network extends around much of Eastern Canada and the North Eastern United States.

The Porter lounge is comfortable, has all the amenities and superior technology of the Air Canada lounge, but is open to the general public. Unlike entry to the Air Canada lounge, you don’t have to endure 50,000 air miles of sub-standard service as a rite of passage.

I sat next to a Porter pilot who asked me if he had the ‘pleasure of flying me today.’ He soon followed this question with a further question inviting me to tell him of any previous experiences with this or any other airline that might provide Porter with an opportunity to enhance the travel experience?

I have been flying on business for over 30 years, and subjected to a number of airlines surveys, but no pilot has ever asked me how their organisation can enhance their customer service.

Contrast this with Air Canada who, in response to bad service, give a 5% discount on a future ticket. This is ridiculous. You give a customer a bad experience, and the response is encourage further investment in a negative experience? This is a feedback loop that needs to be cut, and cut quickly.

Both pilots are senior managers in their companies, each having a big influence on the core flying experience—safety and communication. One group divorced themselves from the market, behaved as deliverers or simply executors of a Complicated operation. The other saw themselves as agents in a Complex situation, influencers on customers and their organisation, and able to shape the complexity of the market place in their favour.

To influence you have to be involved. Needless to say which of these two airlines provides the better customer experience.

If you love your business, get involved.

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The Cynefin Company (formerly known as Cognitive Edge) was founded in 2005 by Dave Snowden. We believe in praxis and focus on building methods, tools and capability that apply the wisdom from Complex Adaptive Systems theory and other scientific disciplines in social systems. We are the world leader in developing management approaches (in society, government and industry) that empower organisations to absorb uncertainty, detect weak signals to enable sense-making in complex systems, act on the rich data, create resilience and, ultimately, thrive in a complex world.

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