The customers remember best what happens last, whether you are running an e-Discovery project for them or flying them across the Atlantic. It seems a shame to do it all so well and then screw up at the end.
I am generally fond of British Airways. I like to see its colours in remote corners of the world; I appreciate its treatment of frequent flyers; its planes seem to take off at more or less the right time and land in the right place. What a pity, then, that my otherwise faultless flight from New York on Saturday ended in my being trapped on the plane because no one had thought to provide the buses to take us off.
They could not have been more helpful in New York, even volunteering to move us to an earlier plane to get us out before the snow. We don’t expect real food. It was a bumpy ride, but the cabin staff were efficiently good-humoured and we arrived at Heathrow on time notwithstanding the conditions. There, however, the process and my goodwill ran out simultaneously.
It was doubtless unavoidable that we ended up in some remote corner of the field. One assumes that someone on the ground expected us to be there (maybe not – perhaps the captain potters round the perimeter until he finds somewhere to park). Anyway, we all got up, pulled down our luggage and stood waiting for the line to move forward. And waited. A bus turned up eventually. There’s another assumption – that they know how many passengers there are on a plane; it is not the main reason why we get boarding passes and go through all those pre-departure checks, but it is a by-product of those formalities that they ought to know how many tired, hungry, busy people are standing in a narrow aisle waiting to get off. It took three buses (or, I suspect, three round trips by the same bus) to get us all off. You would think that, having achieved the major miracle of getting us across the skies, they could manage the last few yards on the ground.
Perhaps this was an economy measure – an airline whose first reaction to the recession was to remove the little hand towels (possibly the most edible part of the whole meal) from the “food” trays has a commendable eye for detail when it comes to economy, but I cannot think that the saving made by skimping on buses was worth it relative to the dissipation of goodwill which resulted. Perhaps it was just incompetence – the administration of wheeled transport tends to attract those less well able to cope with the intellectual challenges of life, as you can see in your council highways department or in any British railway company (that is why I don’t fly Virgin – if they run their airlines like they run their trains, and if Virgin Atlantic’s customer service is run by the same monoglot Indian villagers who field calls about my Virgin Media television service, then I would rather swim to New York).
Anyway, the message for professional service providers is that the job of impressing the clients goes on after the wheels have touched the ground. The closing impression is the one which they take away, and it is as important to make a good impression at the end of the customer experience as it was at the beginning.
But where are your comments on LegalTech? I hear you say (that is, I have just received an e-mail querying why my last post was dated 29 January). Well, I rarely write anything whilst I am at these conferences, instant journalism not being my style, and I have spent most of the time since my return either standing in a large winged bus shelter at Heathrow or de-sub-editing an apparently urgent book chapter which has been spattered with superfluous semi-colons since I last saw my text. In any event, my conference reports tend to the anecdotal rather than the worthy, earnest and factual, and there are plenty of the latter for you to get through. More follows.
Incidentally, and à propos BA, my in-flight reading included an account of how the union leaders of the 1960s were happy to destroy the industries on which their members depended for their jobs and livelihoods. I have some trips coming up and strikes are threatened; my attachment to BA and its useful silver card will survive having to wait for the bus, but I am not sure that I will book a flight with an airline whose union leaders seem not to care if their personal ambitions close the business down.