Saturday, 30 January 2010

Customer management and safety

I like travelling KLM. The staff are really  great, and Schiphol is a very successful hub. 

My KLM flight last night got me to Glasgow an hour late, causing considerable inconvenience. That, however, is not the point of this post.

Schiphol was busy (Friday evening, no surprise) and freezing. There was a queue for the de-icing machine. 

The pilot told us that the delay for the de-icing was 22 minutes, and we had taken on extra fuel to go faster, and that ATC would allow us to take a shorter route.  From a customer experience point of view, misleading people and not keeping them informed is indeed a bad thing to do. It would have been so much better for him to have said "Very sorry. We will be an hour late. If you need to make a mobile phone call to tell people please do it now. I will tell you when to turn off your mobile phones". However, this post is about communications, and not the usual bleat about not being told what is going on and how inconvenient that is.

My anger at the inconvenience to my wife (and my consequent embarrassment) led me to consider this from a Crew Resource Management (CRM) point of view. 

The pilot:

  • Did not challenge the information given by the ground crew (he must have  known it was wildly optimistic);
  • Did not make realistic plans, and counted on 'something turning up';
  • Did not keep people informed.

This is what you are trained to NOT do in CRM.  What makes him think he will be able to drop these bad habits when he is under stress? Why not practice the right approach all the time? Good for business, good for safety. Poor communications with passengers appears in far too many transport-related incident reports.  London Underground seem to have made a real commitment to improving passenger communications. The recent Eurotunnel breakdown problems are an example of poor communications.

If you want more background on why this matters, try googling KLM, crew resource management, Tenerife.

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