Miller’s Monday Morning Message

Andrew MillerMiller’s Monday Morning Message
presented by ACM Consulting Inc.

Andrew Miller on operational excellence, strategy, life balance and everything in between

Toronto – November 23, 2015

I want recount for you a recent experience I had with American Airlines, not to pick on AA, but to use it as a case study for what many of you are doing to your customers.

I called American Airlines reservations last week to book a flight to see a client in Philadelphia. Almost one and half hours and three people later, I finally had my ticket booked. Here are some of the particulars with some general questions for you to consider.

The agent I spoke to was in a call centre with other agents and the background noise was so loud, it sounded like she was in a noisy restaurant. I had to keep yelling my credit card information into the phone.

  • Are your employees taking customer calls in a place where they can best focus on the customer?

The travel voucher I was using to book the flight was issued in Canadian dollars, but the AA reservation system only accepts US dollars. It took 20 minutes and three people to figure out how to apply the voucher. Not to mention that it was a paper voucher and needed to be mailed in to be applied.

  • Is your technology or your internal processes limiting your ability to resolve customer issues quickly and effectively?

After all this was completed, I contacted the executive responsible for the customer experience at AA (whose title was SVP of the Customer Experience). I received a message from the Customer Relations department on behalf of this executive, who then proceeded to tell me they have no incoming phone lines so I can’t call them back.

  • Are you providing customers an easy way to get in touch with you?

What American Airlines forgot is that every customer complaint is an opportunity to connect with customers. It is an opportunity to help those customers become more loyal. Or even become evangelists for the brand. Had AA handled this properly, I could have become a more loyal customer. Instead, I will avoid using AA at all costs.

Are you providing customer service or doing your customers a disservice?

Looking for more insights?
Are you a small or medium-sized business owner looking to accelerate growth and maximize profitability? Then you need to register for my free workshop on How to Accelerate Growth Through Operational Excellence.
I will also be hosting a teleconference on November 27 on Why Your Operational Excellence Function is Failing. Click here for more details and to register.
Want to become more adept at Operational Excellence? Check out my new Operational Excellence program.
Check out my podcast series called Hockey Management, where I use hockey as an analogy for successful business results.
Prefer watching videos? The take a look at my short videos providing operational excellence tips.
Follow me on Twitter @AndrewMillerACM

To request an interview or more information, please contact:

Andrew Miller
© Andrew Miller. All rights reserved. 2015.

American Airlines and Customer Disservice – Part 2

I thought I would continue to write about my ongoing saga with American Airlines, not so much as to pick on AA (as I do need to fly with them twice in the next month), but more of an experiment and a learning experience.

In my original post, I laid out the initial events on my phone call. I did finally get my ticket booked after 1 hour and 25 minutes on the phone, but wanted to add a few things that have happened since that original post:

  • In the middle of the call, I was transferred to the Resolutions department without being told and then had to provide the same information for a third time.
  • I was then told I needed to mail in my travel voucher before my ticket could be issued. Why did they mail me a hard copy voucher if I need to mail it back to use it?
  • I was then told to call 72 hours before my flight if a ticket had not yet been issued to me to ensure I could actually travel on my flight. Why is the onus on me to do all the work?
  • I asked how long it would take to process my voucher once received and was told “It depends how busy they are.” Is that really what people should be telling their customers?
  • I tweeted about my experience and received this response from AA, “We’re sorry for any trouble you’re having applying your voucher. Our agents will work together to get you taken care of.” You mean those same agents who took almost two hours to book my original ticket? No thanks….
  • I sent an email to the SVP of Customer Experience providing the details of my ticket-booking saga. This morning I received a message from the Customer Relations department as a follow-up to my email. However, I can’t call them back because they don’t have an incoming phone number for me to call. Imagine that, a Customer Relations department with no way for customers to contact them.

More to come, I’m sure…..



Companies Using Technology to Engage Customers


Andrew shares an example of a company that uses a creative way to engage their customers.

Technology and Operational Excellence


Andrew discusses technology’s role in the quest for operational excellence.

The problem with customer satisfaction metrics

We are currently staying at Deerhurst, which is a beautiful resort in Muskoka, about two hours north of Toronto.

There is an activity desk here where you can book different activities around the resort – rock climbing, a petting zoo, hummer tours, etc. The activity desk is staffed by very friendly young women who are always smiling and at least appear to like their jobs. When we arrived yesterday, I went to the activity desk to find out what was going on for the next few days. I was very politely told that there was a brochure that I could take and decide what I wanted to do. The young woman was very friendly and helpful.

But here’s my issue…she had a great opportunity to create additional revenue for the resort without being pushy or obnoxious. She merely had to highlight some of the key activities. She could have noticed that I was with my five-year old daughter and mentioned she might like the pony rides, or that many families who stay at the hotel have really enjoyed some other activity. It’s not her fault, she did her job as she was instructed to do. That’s the limitation of customer satisfaction metrics. She could have engaged me in a conversation and asked what my family likes to do, or even better, engaged my daughter in a conversation about what she likes to do. Then highlighted some options for us.

If someone were to have handed me a customer service survey on the spot, I would have given her high marks. She was friendly, smiling, polite, knowledgeable and helpful. But from the resort’s perspective (and my perspective as a business consultant), there was a lost revenue opportunity. You need to consider what you are measuring when it comes to those who have direct interaction with your customers and figure out new and creative ways to generate new revenue opportunities.

Focus on Growth Not Resolution of Problems


This podcast examines how often organizations hurt themselves by focusing their time on problem resolution. Andrew explains that by adopting an abundance mindset, organizations can open the door to innovation, creativity and growth.