As inclement weather hits, Delta fails its customers due to organizational breakdowns

As inclement weather hit the New York and Eastern Seaboard earlier this month, the FAA issued a slowdown of all ground and air traffic in and out of New York’s LaGuardia Airport, resulting in hundreds of delayed and canceled flights set to depart that night. What followed was a textbook example showcasing the breakdown of operational and technical silos within an organization such as Delta. We all know nothing can be done about Mother Nature and her impact on air travel; however, how organizations such as Delta react will either magnify or alleviate situations like this. Unfortunately in the example we are sharing today, Delta’s breakdown magnified the issue… 

When the FAA ordered the slowdown of LaGuardia’s air traffic, Delta—at first—appeared to be the poster child for how an organization should be responding in times where situational slowdowns were out of their control. It started with Delta notifying their passengers of the slowdowns via an announcement within the terminal, followed by text messages, emails, and Delta mobile application notifications. They were quick to identify the source of the slowdown being the FAA and the weather’s unforeseen impact on the airport while promising to keep passengers updated on progress as it was made. At first, updates were coming fast and furious, with new statuses being made almost every 10 – 15 minutes… This impressed me as it seemed like Delta was working with real-time data to make their best possible indication of delays and new departure times. However, as time began to pass, it became apparent Delta was doing nothing more than pulling guesses out of thin air.

In reality, what we were witnessing was a systematic breakdown of the various silos within Delta. At first, it was communication with its passengers, as frequent departure updates became less frequent, conflicting, and past tense. After a while, Delta stopped screenshot_20190610-203903_fly-deltapushing updates via email and text altogether, only sticking with gate and mobile application updates… At this point, even the gate and mobile application had completely different departure times, and as time progressed, even those times were long gone with future updates ending up with the same fate…. It wasn’t uncommon to be looking at the mobile app with an estimated departure time that is 10 minutes earlier than the current time (Picture). This at first was clear indication that Delta did not have a cohesive communication strategy for times like this… But it did not stop there.

While waiting at the gate wondering when our flight would actually depart from LaGuardia, something interesting happened: a flight attendant ended up sitting next to me… The first thing I noticed is that Delta provides their staff a different version of their mobile application; this application gives them visibility into incoming flight statuses for aircrafts meant to service specific flights. In this case, her application clearly showed that our flight was inbound from Boston to LaGuardia with an ETA of 8:05pm while the gate notifications had our estimated departure time at 7:57pm… This was a first clear indicator that their own internal systems were not able to communicate between each other, as they clearly had our estimated departure time set before our incoming aircraft was even due to arrive. What even further compounded the issue was once our incoming aircraft finally made it to the gate, we were then notified that our pilots were actually on a completely different aircraft… These two incoming flights both had direct downstream impacts to our delayed flight, yet it seemed as if the team responsible for posting departure estimates had no insight whatsoever to this information. This begs the question: where were they getting this information from in the first place?

Delta’s failures didn’t stop there. Once the aircraft and crew were finally in alignment and passengers were able to board the plane, the waiting continued. At first it was 5 minutes, but then quickly became 10, 15, and then 20 minutes without movement from the gate or updates from the crew. Eventually, the pilots came over the intercom announcing that we were actually waiting on the aircraft to finish fueling and paperwork. This, again, was another breakdown of Delta’s systems as the plane had been sitting at the gate for more than 30 minutes before the crew arrived, and no one had the foresight to ensure proper preparation such as fueling the aircraft while waiting on the crew. This delay turned into another 50-minute delay before we were able to depart from the gate.

The lack of system communication within Delta not only made it frustrating to receive an accurate estimate of when our delayed fight was actually set to depart, but it had call center ramifications as well. That day, not only were flights delayed, but there were many cancelations … As passengers began to receive cancelation updates, they were quick to call Delta’s customer service to make alternate arrangements. For some, this turned into absolute disaster as people were being booked on new flights, and those flights were canceled minutes later in some cases, or passengers were finding that flights were full. In one case, there was a gentleman trying to make his way to Tennessee who was booked on three canceled flights…

What we were witnessing was a fundamental breakdown in Delta’s siloed systems which made it virtually impossible for the various components of Delta’s customer-facing business units to properly communicate internally and to customers, leading to an end result of frustrated customers and bruised brand reputation. When Mother Nature hits, almost nothing can control how the FAA will react and its impact to the airlines; however, the way the airlines react during this time can and will have a direct impact to overall customer experiences and brand reputation…. Let’s be realistic—we talked a lot about Delta, but they’re not alone, as many organizations struggle with the same siloed approach to how they do business, and as a direct result, they are slow to react when their customers are in times of need. Small businesses have an advantage as they are quick to make adjustments on the fly; however, even small businesses fail to recognize that they need to put proper systems and policies in place before situations like unplanned weather hit! As businesses, it is up to you to be proactive in times of need because customers will remember if you alleviated the situation or just made things worse.

Another Manufacture Rushes to Market and Fails

We continuously talk about how business moves at the speed of light these days and how businesses need to react to the market just as fast, but how fast is too fast? Samsung recently has been receiving criticism for major manufacturing issues regarding their folding phone before it even hit the market. Over the past few weeks, Samsung had been sharing preproduction versions of their $2,000 flip phone, only to have them fail within hours of first use… This, unfortunately, has become more the norm than the exception. The problem is that businesses are rushing to get their products to market without using them first and doing the proper smoke testing before adopting consumers as beta testers. This recently took center stage with Boeing, where along with their recent failures, news began to leak about how they rushed the Boeing 737 Max Fleet to market, pushing for faster governmental approvals and skipping some steps completely in order to beat Airbus to the punch. And we now know the results of them speeding up the process.

This is not uncommon as time to market and cost savings have taken center stage for many, resulting in quality control issues out of the box. Another example is the fact that almost any web-enable device, even on the day of launch, typically needs a firmware or software update—or both—before the product can even be used. This essentially means that between the time it took to manufacture, ship, and get a product into the customers’ hands, they already found and fixed many issues with the product. However, the updates do not stop there as businesses continuously update their products on a regular basis as they find more issues.

Businesses the likes of Samsung and Boeing have the ability to overcome manufacturing issues, as they typically are quick to address major flaws and have massive amounts of marketing budgets to blitz the market to make you forget the issues in the first place. The same cannot be said for smaller businesses. In some cases, shipping a product before it’s ready can be fatal to a business as most small businesses simply do not have the resources to recover from a bad product launch. Not only does it put restraints on the entire supply chain, it also has major customer ramifications. As we wrote about not too long ago, it only takes a handful of bad reviews to hurt your business. We understand that time to market is extremely important for any business to stay competitive, however there is a limit to just how fast you can go. Don’t skip important steps and ensure proper product testing before you go to market! It just may save your business.

 

Picking a Job Based on your Potential Manager is a Huge Mistake

Anyone on LinkedIn most likely has seen an article or two floating around encouraging people to pick a job based on a manager vs the company itself… Let us first start off by saying that any manager absolutely has the power to make a job an enjoyable or frightful experience for their employees. And any good leader knows it is completely in their power to do everything they can to make a job experience as enjoyable as possible. We’ve all had good and bad managers; however, making a decision solely based on who your potential manger will be is a HUGE mistake… Here’s the reality: regardless of the manager, when starting a new job, you become married to the company and not the manager. If we were talking about the job market 20 years ago, our opinion would be different. Back then, it wasn’t uncommon for employees to stay with an organization for many years—and in some cases, decades or full careers. In today’s climate, the average  employment tenure is roughly 4.3 years… That is employment overall and means on average, you are all but guaranteed to get a new manager every four or so years, regardless of how strong you feel about their management ability. However, it goes much further than that… As that number is purely in relationship to how employees stay with the organization and doesn’t account for shifts in position, team changes, or promotions. In reality, this means that someone as your direct manager has a shelf-life of somewhere between one to two years tops. From a personal experience, almost every organization I’ve been employed with throughout my career has seen at least one direct management change. Some have seen many many more… In Oracle for example, I experienced four direct management changes within a little over a year without personally changing teams once. Yes, that’s right—my team had four different managers in a little over a year. For others, it wasn’t uncommon to have had three to four management changes throughout a multiyear tenure.

With all of that said, do your homework on your prospective manager and ensure they are the right person for you, BUT do not forget to pick the right company for you as well. Chances are, they will not be your direct manager forever!

Salesforce.com Pushes Businesses to Adopt New Lightning Platform

On December 17th, 2018 Salesforce.com announced a strategic move to shift all accounts to their new Lightning platform on a rolling basis… Salesforce.com’s new Lightning platform actually isn’t all that new as it has been around for a few years now, officially launching on XX. We find this forced shift to the new platform a little disconcerting, as most organizations are not ready for this shift. The challenge is that Salesforce.com’s growing customer base of 3.75 million users has become extremely familiar with the existing platform. Personally, I cannot remember much of a change in the overall platform for the past ten years. With this new change, Salesforce.com is essentially forcing their entire userbase (with the exception of early adopters) to relearn this new platform… This in itself is not a huge issue, as most users will grow to forget the old platform in little time, with the end result being some—but not total—disruption.

We have been working to strategically get more departments integrated into Salesforce.com over the years taking advantage of the platform’s full potential. Challenge is, once you go beyond sales, the inherent knowledge of a CRM system drastically drops. Anyone that has deployed a CRM to any department beyond sales has experienced a fairly significant learning curve to get these departments onboarded to the CRM. Therein lies the problem: with this change, you’ll find that those same departments that were so difficult to get onboarded will need to be retrained once again.

With this new platform being deployed over the next few months, we advise that businesses start their planning and training on the new platform now. Salesforce.com has made the new platform available now for select users within organizations to get familiar with the system. Our suggestion is to get your most active users on the new Lightning platform today, allowing them to learn the new system sooner than later. Then, start setting up sessions with the various teams and departments to educate them on the new platform… The sooner you can get them educated and adjusted around this new platform, the less downtime your organization will be subject to when Salesforce.com flips the switch.

Landmark Case with TripAdvisor, Makes Businesses Think Twice About Reviews

It was announced on Wednesday, September 13th of 2018 that an Italian man would be jailed for nine months for running a business tied to fake TripAdvisor reviews.

Reviews, especially for consumer-based businesses, mean everything… and unfortunately there are too many businesses that are more than willing to circumvent systems to provide fake reviews for products and services. We always highly recommended against using these services, as at the end of the day, it will negatively affect your business. Not only do real customers eventually catch on, but organizations such as TripAdvisor, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Yelp are all working on solutions to combat such practices. This means that those reviews will eventually fall off, and there could be other ramifications such as fines or banning from platforms completely.

Reviews are increasingly becoming a primary tool for consumers to make daily decisions on what to buy and eat, naturally leading to increased business for businesses with a plethora of positive reviews. Instead of risking long-term gains for short-term with providers offing fake reviews, 3SixtySMB recommends developing a strategy to interact with your customers and work towards getting real, credible customer reviews for the various platforms out there. Strategies can be anything from simply asking customers to post reviews, or offering incentives such as discounts for their honest take on your business.

Real reviews are also an insight into the soul of your business. We find that many disregard reviews with the belief that the customer doesn’t know what they are talking about, or that they as a “business owner” know what is best for the business. However, real reviews are the consumer’s perception of your business (good or bad), and insights like reviews can truly help you understand the strengths and weaknesses of the business in the eyes of your customers. Making adjustments to your business model as you learn about them through your reviews will help increase your overall customer experience and lead to increased revenue over time. We wrote a related article about this not too long ago (There’s A Problem, Stop What You Are Doing).

Finally, ensuring that you are monitoring these reviews in real time also gives a clear line of communication directly to your consumers. As an example, if a consumer had an issue with your business and you did not respond, you could lose a customer for life. Furthermore, they will tell their friends, and their review is now visible for the world to see. This means that one bad review left unaddressed can lead to multiple lost customers down the road. If you have a few bad reviews, you are now taking a significant hit to your business. Addressing issues in a professional and courteous manner can not only change the perception of a customer with a bad experience, but it also shows the world that you take your customer experiences seriously. Furthermore, positive reviews are not to be ignored. Take the time to thank someone that posted a positive review for their business, possibly even offer them a discount on their next trip in. Actions like this create loyal customers, and again, show the workers what type of business you run.

Reviews are truly an inside view to the soul of your business, both for your customers and your organization. Treat customers horribly, and everyone will know! Treat customers well, and everyone will know! Which do you think is better for your business? And when it comes to “paid reviews”, steer clear of them; they could be a path to short-term gains, however they will catch up to you in the long run… Finally, there are many platforms out there (TripAdvisor, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Yelp), so do not make the mistake of only focusing on one. Where your customers are, you should be there as well!