United we stand

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This particular Airline seemed to be getting worse with each flight. Delays were now common place and were no longer considered a big deal (talk about conformity). We had gone from bad service to bad food (they actually served us baked beans that was warmed from a previous flight). The hustling for tickets and racketeering was no secret and on more than one occasion we saw people pop up from somewhere at the back looking for vacant seats. With the recurrence we now understood what was happening.

I was flying to Kaduna with my sisters on this particular occasion in 2005. About a third of the people on this flight were students. There was a small thirty minute delay before take-off which really was nothing compared to the ones we were used to. Then we noticed a few people begin to disembark from all areas of the plane (of course apart from business class). Suddenly a man walked to the middle of the aisle faced us all and announced that if he didn’t make this flight, the plane was going nowhere. A few seconds later before he got back to his seat, officials of the airline and perhaps security personnel came to bundle him out of the plane with both his shoes flying in different directions. We could now hear him begging his ‘captors’ that he didn’t want to miss his morning appointment in Kaduna. He was out in no time and we took off. We now understood that the people that disembarked earlier had actually been approached to do so and they did, this man probably didn’t budge hence the forceful removal.

Of course there was no complaint from any of the passengers on that flight. Some of the students on board just remarked that they won’t have dared incurred the wrath of the students on board. Now it is important to note that no announcement whatsoever was made before or after the encounter. The Air hostesses even feigned smiles when they served us our beverages. By the time we got to our destination an hour later, between the shaky plane, the crappy service and bumpy landing we had soon forgotten about the experience (at least the conversations had ceased). It is amazing that no newspaper reports such encounters for reasons best known to them and the service providers just continue their business as usual. We don’t know if the man removed from the plane really had an appointment or if that was a last minute plea for mercy. Whatever the case as much we could guess, he paid for his ticket in full.

When things go wrong, folks are quick to mention that things like that can only happen in Nigeria and others are quick to agree that Nigeria (indeed Africa) is farthest away from civilization and God. Well, by now you must have heard what happened at O’Hare International Airport with United Express Flight 3411. Apparently they had overbooked that flight and some of their staff needed to be elsewhere hence the need to ask some passengers to disembark. Now there are rules that govern what to do when situations like this arise. Some of the measures will include offering incentives to passengers (especially since it was not their fault) but none of them includes forcibly removing a full paying customer. You keep garnishing your offer until someone budges. For someone reason David Dao refused to depart the airplane upon the demand of management and for no reason should he have been dragged as a common criminal apparently unconscious and they stupidly allowed him back with blood dripping from his mouth and nose. I am sure by now lawyers are jostling to represent him on what seems like a home run.

It is amazing that organisations have refused to understand that customers should be treated with royalty. Sometimes it matters more than the many discounts and bonuses that are offered. Excellent customer service is good for any business and both employees and management must learn to manage both the customers within the organisation and those outside. The resultant effect therefore is that customer service excellence has become a primary competitive weapon. The economic value of a customer is not just the current amount of business they bring in, but the total amount of business they are capable of generating for the company over their entire lifetime. If organisations think of this then perhaps the culture will be driven from top management. Let’s unite against bad customer service.

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