Many aspects of business have changed in the last 3-4 years. Prior to the pandemic there were issues, but during and since Covid there is a heightened awareness associated with how companies deal with customers. Whether it is different people in different roles or more reliance on systems to make decisions, we hear more about poor customer service. Food and beverage businesses can really differentiate their offering when they serve their customers properly.
Customer focused businesses consider the impact on the person or business buying the product. This does not mean they always do what the customer wants, there is a good chance if you do that you will run out of money fast. It does mean when decisions are made the process is in place to consider the impact on the customer and to assess what is the right course of action.
There are not too many businesses that do not have customer service issues. Customer focused businesses implement processes to ensure the right decision is made.
Anticipate the issues
Food and beverage businesses can predict what issues they might face and put capable people and processes in place to make the right decision for their customers. Have you considered what these should be in your business or do you deal with challenges on a case by case basis? Managing inventory, recalls, product that does not meet spec are all issues food and beverage companies will probably have to face at one time or another.
Are you ready?
Have you implemented a customer focused approach to make the right call?
Two options to the same problem
Recently we took our family on a vacation. This was a big one, the family trip to Europe. Our children are at the age where we felt the time was right and that they would get a lot out of the trip. We were all excited.
On our way to Italy, we were flying Air Canada. Our trip took us from Halifax to Montreal to Rome. Our connection in Montreal seemed tight to me but Air Canada assured us it was fine and within their standard of realistic. As we waited for our first flight, we started to see the inbound plane was late. Once it arrived there was no sense of urgency on behalf of Air Canada to get that plane turned around and on its way to Montreal. By this time, I am pacing in the terminal. Perhaps reminding them at the desk people have connections. Eventually we depart and it looks like we will arrive in Montreal 15-20 minutes prior to our scheduled departure for Rome.
We arrive at gate 47 and passed gate 50 where the plane was there waiting to leave for Rome. There were 12-15 other passengers trying to make the same connection. We all run through the airport to be told the door is closed and we will not be getting on. The Air Canada employee now has an angry mob on her hands. Many of us explain we are carry on only, no bags so let us on. All we get is same response, door is closed. We are told to go as quickly as possible back to customer service by gate 1. We all run down there and they tell us we should have just been directed to gate 55 for a flight to Amsterdam with a connection to Rome. New arrival time 2.5 hours later than original schedule. We grumble but decide we will have to live with it.
Like a pack of angry dogs, we run back to gate 55. Out of breath, we board the flight to Amsterdam and the plane does not move. Eventually, it pulls out 45 minutes later. You know what is next…no way we will make the original connection in Amsterdam. The airport is nice but really not where we want to spend the first 6.5 hours of our family vacation. By the way, there are no Air Canada people in Amsterdam, they have passed us off to ‘partner’ airlines.
After 12 email updates from Air Canada and 9.5 hours late, we do arrive in Rome. Wiped out and frustrated.
On a different leg of the trip, we were flying Aegean Airlines from a Greek island, through Athens and back to Rome. The connection was even tighter than our Montreal debacle.
Waiting for the first flight and once again the inbound flight is late. I am pacing in a different terminal now.
Ranting we will be stuck in Athens and lose more precious time during our vacation. The person at the desk makes an announcement the incoming flight is late but they will do what they can to board quickly and get people on their way as fast as possible. A glimmer of hope?
We land in Athens and an announcement is made, if you have connections, find our Aegean Airlines connecting passenger service agent with the special blue vest who will be waiting for you. They will review your boarding pass and help you. Wow, a real person who is actually focused on helping the customer. They offload the plane outside there onto a bus. The person in the blue vest instructs us to get on a different bus and they will take us right to the gate for flight to Rome. We run up to the gate and the person says ‘we knew you were coming, you will make your flight’.
They take us out to the plane and although we are last ones on, we made our connection.
We arrived on our flight about 5-10 minutes late. We even had to check a bag on that leg and the bag made it to Rome with us. Aegean Airlines have a special tag for tight connections to help airport staff. It worked for us.
Predicable problem, totally different solutions
Every airline operating will have to deal with connecting passengers who are late. These companies know how many passengers they have moving on different flights and when connections can or cannot be made.
Does Air Canada even have anyone who cares? If they did, would it not make sense to hold that flight to Rome for the 15 people who have paid (a lot) of money for those seats? Because they are not a customer focused business, they leave their poor employees to deal with angry mobs. I would also assume we are all going after them for compensation. That is another process by the way…
The Aegean Airlines approach is a proactive one. If our flight to Rome had departed, at least we would have had a real person who we believed would help us. Air Canada just passed us from one to the next until eventually we were stuck in Amsterdam, out of their hair.
Air travel is not what it used to be but for the money we pay it should be better. Perhaps people have bad experiences on Aegean Airlines but we have to give them credit for being proactive and putting people and a process in place. Unfortunately, we do not have as many options as some markets, but when I do have the choice, I know who I will stay away from.
Despite our late arrival into Rome we did have a memorable vacation. It just should have started out better.
Take a look at the predictable problems in your business and what you have set up to manage them. Do your customers, which can be retailers, see you as Air Canada or Aegean Airlines? If you are in a category where they have choices, you better make sure you have the Aegean Airlines solution.
If you have any questions about customer focused businesses, you can always send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at (902) 489-2900.
Kleenex brand will be exiting Canada
Kimberly Clark has announced Kleenex brand tissues will not be available in the Canadian market in the future. They said the ‘unique complexities’ of this market forced the decision. This article is from the BBC and it is interesting to note an international perspective. The statements about challenges doing business in Canada and also protectionist approach are not ones we hear often from Canadian media. We have seen other similar decisions from large consumer packaged goods companies in frozen food and the baking aisle.
Perhaps it will open the space up for more Canadian produced products or it will get swallowed up by another large consumer packaged goods company. We do agree with one statement in the article, “they would not make this decision if they were making money”. Interesting to see the dynamics of the shelf continue to change.
Where is Peter Speaking?
We have been working hard to put together a new video to promote the work we do speaking at conferences and events. Hope you enjoy the video!