Two weeks ago I had the “privilege” of traveling on American Airlines, through Dallas, on our way to Virginia for spring break. I say”privilege” because I am guessing American Airlines thinks I have no other choice.
The entire experience, both coming and going, was hell on this earth- but we will get to that in a moment. As I sat in travel purgatory I couldn’t help but think about the customer experience and what this incident could teach me about how MY customers experience buying and selling real estate with me.
But, first, here is my travel nightmare story. Those of you who follow me on Facebook or Twitter got to live it with me, wasn’t it fun? (Not. Clue- never piss off a woman with a smart phone and internet access) We flew American Airlines from LAX to Norfolk, VA via Dallas International. On every flight the plane was over sold and packed. Dire threats and warnings concerning our carry on luggage were frequent- if our bags didn’t fit we would be escorted off the plane!
There was no food, very little to drink, and the attendants were mostly absent. On board entertainment was non existent- in fact, there was almost nothing to distract us from our misery. Bad weather delayed our flights and the process for finding a way home was utterly absurd.
(They wait list you on the next flight and you scuttle over to that gate, hoping your name will be called. If you don’t answer when your name is called you lose your chance AND they remove you from the next wait list, so you can’t move- not even to get a bite to eat. If you don’t get called- and that was most likely- you scuttle on to the next gate and the next flight’s wait list and start the process again. It is a bizarre Kafkaesque experience)
One flight was particularly memorable. Our plane was equipped to “service” us for three hours, but we were on it for eight. In those eight hours I got one can of tomato juice and I saw the flight attendant three times. In eight hours. They didn’t even come around to pick up trash. Wow.
All of this made me think, a lot, about customer experience. The weather can not be controlled and the economy is forcing a host of changes for all industries. Given those realities, has anyone at American Airlines thought about the customer experience?
Charging the customer to check their bags seems like a revenue producer, but the inevitable and predictable outcome is an increase in carry on baggage. Has anyone thought about how to adjust the customer experience at the flight gate?
Weather delays are laughably common at certain airports. Has anyone thought about a better way to deliver the wait list experience? How about equipping the onboard staff to handle these frequent flight delays that leave customers on board for far too long?
I felt the American Airline system was only designed to handle the ideal circumstance. Anything outside of ideal is simply not considered. And, this is why American Airlines is failing. I am dead certain I will find any way possible, including paying more money, to fly with someone else.
And this is what brings me to real estate. If the situation is ideal, anyone can deliver a great customer experience. However, twists, turns, drama and mishaps are as laughably common as a weather delayed flight in or out of Dallas. At the end of the day, is your Realtor equipped to handle a situation that is less than ideal?
I believe that very few buyers or sellers (or Realtors, for that matter) understand that a real estate transaction is incredibly complex- numerous people must do their jobs in a very specific way or the deal is delayed or collapses all together. Your Realtor is the one who oversees all of these bits and pieces and it is your Realtor who needs to adjust things along the way in order for you to have a great experience.
I spend time, money and effort to anticipate common and predictable bumps in the road. After 25 years and hundreds of sold homes, I have learned the best case plan for each of these scenarios and I make sure that everyone- myself, my team and my clients- are ready to shift, easily and without drama.
The consequence of a bad travel experience is, mostly, many lost hours or a lost day. The consequence of a bad real estate deal worth hundreds of thousands- even millions of dollars? Think about it- do you really want to find out?