The Waiting Experience

As I write this, I’m sitting in the airport waiting for a flight that has been delayed.  There is something about a delayed flight that drains the energy from a terminal.  The family leaving on vacation is suddenly less excited given the additional hours they must wait to arrive.  The businessman headed to close a major deal becomes frustrated by the thought of rescheduling his meeting.  The group of students on a Senior Trip begins to drag after a few games of Uno.  All the while, the airline simply continues its work to provide the scheduled experience “as soon as possible”.  Customers are asked to wait but provided nothing to make the waiting experience more enjoyable (or at the least less miserable)..

Airlines often forget an important principle of customer service:  When a scheduled experience is delayed, the waiting experience becomes just as important.
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What accolades would an airline receive if it made a small effort to recognize and improve the waiting experience at the gates of its delayed flights?  I doubt it would require much:  Offer beverage service in the terminal…Show a movie on the flatscreens…Distribute decks of cards or simple board games.  Do something …anything… to recognize and better the experience of the inconvenienced.
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It is easy to point fingers at airlines.  (They tend to be the punching bag of customer service critics.)  But the principle is applicable to a number of industries.  What would fans say of a baseball stadium that planned for rain delays?  Or patients of a doctor’s office that provided a positive waiting room environment?  Sometimes the solution to a delay is not to make it shorter, but to make it more enjoyable.
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Is there any place where your organization is ignoring the waiting experience?  Are you prepared to accommodate for the unforeseen delays of all events?
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Simply saying, “We’re about 20 minutes from boarding…or starting…or seeing you” just isn’t enough.
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Ryan Stigile

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