This week’s riff: We recently had an enjoyable week’s holiday in France. We flew from Stansted Airport and I had booked the airport’s ‘speedy parking’. The marketing blurb told us that we could simply hand over the keys and walk over to the terminal in less than a minute. When we arrived to drop off the keys, however, there was a huge queue snaking across the car park.

I sneaked into the office, right through to the front to give my key to one of the staff (I know, it’s not very British to ignore the queue, is it?). As I reached the front, I saw staff frantically searching for keys in a series of boxes stacked up on shelves behind the counter. It was like a scene from Harry Potter’s wand store in Diagon Alley.

How long have you been here?” I asked the bleary-eyed traveller who had finally reached the front desk. “Over an hour,” he hissed, trying to suppress his frustration.

It’s not our fault,” said the service clerk, defensively. “They’ve put in a new system today and no-one knows how to use it.

I gave her my keys and skipped on, along with my family, looking forward to our upcoming queues to check-in, pass through security and, finally, to board the plane.

One week later we returned. The situation was little better. Management had created a new service ‘solution’ by asking staff to get hold of a load of keys and to go outside to the queue and shout out the names on each key ring. I can’t be sure, but I think some of the people in the queue were still there from the previous Saturday!

Two weeks on from our return, I received a call from the customer service team offering me my money back and £50 compensation as a result of a recent “technical issue” at the car park.

They were wrong, of course. This was not a technical issue, it was a management issue.

A technical deficiency that started the situation, but it was poor decisions by the airport’s managers to introduce a new system, without training, on one of the busiest flying days. It was poor management that the situation had not been resolved one week later. And it was poor management to wait a further two weeks before contacting the affected passengers.

In the end, there are no technical issues or staff issues, there are only management issues. Some evidence suggests that resolving customer service problems can increase customer loyalty. But that only happens if the response is rapid – within 24 hours – and appropriate.

How does your organisation plan for and address customer service problems, and how quickly can you respond?


Off The Record: Trains and Boats and Planes by Dionne Warwick (Written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David)

Trains and boats and planes are passing by

They mean a trip to Paris or Rome

For someone else, but not for me

The trains and the boats and plans

Took you away

Away from me


© Stuart Cross 2017. All rights reserved.