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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Incomplete is Insufficient

There are many legitimate reasons a business might have to do something that's unpopular with its customers.

Regulations may limit the number of people allowed at a given venue, forcing customers to be denied entrance.

Safety factors may necessitate banning seemingly harmless items from public spaces.

Legitimate profitability concerns may force a business to charge for something that customers would prefer to be provided for free.

But in each of these scenarios, communication will more often than not be the key to customer understanding and acceptance. If you make a decision or enforce a rule without explaining its purpose or intent, you risk having even rational customers left thinking, "That doesn't make any sense!"

Once, twenty minutes into a flight I was on several years ago, the cabin staff made what I found to be a curious announcement: "On this flight, only coffee, beer, wine, and water will be served. The beer and wine are complimentary."

"That's odd," I thought, "I've never been on a flight that didn't offer soft drinks before."

My surprise intensified when the serving cart was pushed to my row and I noticed it was fully stocked with soft drinks.

When it was my turn, I asked why there weren't any soft drinks being served. And the flight attendant provided me with a curious response: "We don't have enough time. We're only in the air for an hour and ten minutes, and there's just not enough time to serve soft drinks."

To use a colourful phrase borrowed from a former manager fond of calling out the sales team, "I call bullshit."

If the airline had enough air-time to serve me a can of beer (or worse, process a transaction if I had decided to purchase one of the snacks available for sale), why would it not have enough time to hand me a Diet Coke?

Let me be clear: this was an airline that took pride in its fantastic customer service, and one on which I had happily flown for years. I have no doubt there was a very legitimate reason why the flight attendant had enough time to pour me a cup of coffee but not enough time to hand me a can of soda. I just couldn't understand what it was.

The explanation I was provided was incomplete, and thus insufficient.

It didn't adequately explain why I couldn't have the beverage I really wanted when, in my mind, there was no difference between that and the alternatives I was offered.

I chose not to cause a fuss on the plane, mostly because that's never a good idea.

But in my head, I was saying, "I call bullshit". And it didn't have to be that way.

If you don't have time to provide your customers with a full explanation, make the time.

Because from a customer service perspective, incomplete is insufficient.


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