Lessons to be learned from American Airlines on how NOT TO run a senior housing community!
Several years ago Marc Cendella founder of TheLadders.com, wrote about an experience he had on an American Airline flight.
. . . my recent flight on American wasn’t uniquely miserable. It was just run-of-the-mill lousy. But what really got me bummed out was my flight attendant’s outfit. Katherine had gone to the trouble of wearing buttons with all sorts of sayings on her uniform. . . . . as Katherine approached me I strained to get my work weary eyes to read the fine print on her button. I could just make out the words: “I Have No Idea Why I Work Here!”
A terrible attitude, but in my view, in keeping with the American Corporate culture and the typical American Airlines flying experience.
Here is just one of my own negative experiences . . .
A few weeks ago I flew from Sacramento where I live to Washington DC for the Leading Age National Convention. This flight included a three hour layover and plane change in Dallas. When I arrived in Dallas I checked the monitors for the status of my next flight. It was running 45 minutes late, but the good news was, that there were two earlier flights. One was already boarding. I ran for it but was too late. I went to the gate where the next earlier flight was departing and which would have put me into Washington an hour earlier. The very efficient gate agent took my boarding pass, punched some buttons and told me he had lots of seats but that it would cost me $50.00 get there an hour earlier. . . .
It was not worth the $50. It got worse though. Because of a personnel mistake on the part of American Airlines, the scheduled flight was delayed more than an hour. What did I get from American Airlines? A weak half-hearted apology over the public address system an an after midnight arrival forcing me to take a taxi rather than the Metro to my lodging.
Even though Southwest is a more spartan airline and even though I have a lot of miles with American, just a few thousand short of having a lifetime status level, I find myself consistently flying Southwest rather than American Airlines. Americans stock price is is less than $.38 a share (now in reorganization bankruptcy). Southwest is over $8.00. American is losing money Southwest is making money.
There are some obvious lessons we can learn from American Airlines (though they are apparently not so obvious to Americans management), that have great application to senior housing:
1. If you can do something nice for your customers when it costs you little or nothing do it! Do it with joy and with a flourish. Your customers will remember it and tell others.
2. If there is a problem tell your customers as soon as possible and give them as much information as you possibly can. Update them if things change.
3. Your employees are not the enemy. I am continually astonished at the contrast between American employees and those of Southwest. I can only conclude that American employees have an almost universally sour attitude because their management treats them like the enemy.
4. Your customers are not the enemy. American treats their customers as if they are in a war where the way they win is to give them as little as possible and at the same time extract as much money from them as possible. Senior communities, residents and families are, or at least should all be in it together to give the residents the best possible day.
If you want to end up in Bankruptcy court, treat employees and customers the way American treats theirs. If you want to be successful, do just the opposite.
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From LinkedIn Groups
Just wanted you to know how much I enjoy reading your comments
Posted by Merry N.
The title of this article is horrible. Wishing that any company goes out of business and therefore putting hundreds if not thousands of people out of work is about as unprofessional as it gets. The market place will take care of poor businesses. Very disappointed and, quite honestly, ashamed that someone in our industry would stoop to using that kind of vile headline for their article.
My experience flying with American Airlines last March was similar. Cancelled flights, engine problems, than after 6 hours of delay’s I was stranded in LaGuardia overnight. When I asked for a voucher for a hotel, I was told I could sit in the bar in the main terminal to pass my time as the drinks might help my attitude. Guess my free voucher will go unused. Not to upset about it either, after the past experience I feared the same would happen.
Thank you, David! My Dad was a Pilot for American Airlines and to imply that the employees, as a group, behave in this manner is ridiculous. Further, my Mom is 79 years young and is constantly worried about my late Dad’s AA pension that she depends on! That article/headline is really disturbing and lacking in concern/compassion for the many people who depend on AA remaining solvent! Guess the Writer needs to stick with Southwest – I have to wonder what sort of “attitude” he had that may have prompted employee responses!
This article just stresses the importance of Customer Service and Honesty. I have always believed if you treat people with respect and are up front and Honest with them you will always come out on top. You will get a better response from your employees if you realize that you yourself would not have a job if it was not for them. A company can only stay in business if you have employees to work for you and if you don’t respect them they sure won’t respect you. As they always say success trickles from the top.
There is a similar contrast between United Airlines and Southwest. Southwest employees actually want to help the customers. Most United employees want to do as little work as possible and be nasty to the customers. I think unions are a big part of the problem.
I guess I dont really see how this links to Seniour housing…slightly from the customer service angle I suppose, but not really. Obviously customer service is a huge part of any business, but there will be negative in every industry that are not the norm. You just got the rude people on the wrong day.
I too travel, my experiences with AA are not different from yours, I too favor Southwest.
I understand the concern expressed in some of the responses who view the opinion of the writer to be insensitive. Truth is, each of us bares responsibility for our decision to work for a company with the AA attitude, culture and leadership style. The sooner death comes to the incompetent businesses among us the sooner better service will be available to us all. There is a rainbow of promise that comes after the process of creative destruction within our economic system; the promise is better service for the customer and benefits for the employee once the weak companies meet their demise.
All this does apply to the long term care companies just a surely as it does to the AAs of insensitive and incompetent service delivery.
Thanks for the article. While wishing no company to have to file bankruptcy and employees lose their job, it is relevant that disengaged employees are in every industry, and in senior living they can sink an organization just like in any other industry, as well as have dangerous consequences on resident care. I believe culture needs to be modeled and driven by the top, and reinforced continuously. There was a time American Airlines was on top; I was driven away by some surliness of the flight attendants, and lack of attention, which was worse than a flight being delayed (that happens to all airlines). I also have flown Southwest a lot, and it is really rare to hear the attendants complain about their job. I think it goes back to the leadership creating an environment for engaged team members. No matter what the business is, the frontline staff are critical.
From LinkedIn Groups
I could not disagree with you more. I have flown frequently on all the major carriers except U.S. Air. for 40 years (as a hotel development executive) and without a doubt, American Airlines is the best managed airlines with the most professional and polite employees in the business. What planet do you live on. Low cost carriers including United, Delta, Continental and S.W. are what they are – low cost lousy lousy service.
Wow! I can’t imagine hoping any business that employs one or thousands of people to go bankrupt at any time of the day. Poor customer service is a symptom of poor management – thus sowing low morale amongst its very valuable human assets – its employees. I hope American Airlines is able to restructure and continue to employ those individuals who want to and need to work. I wish them well and hope them great success!
From LinkedIn Groups
Steve – Great lessons. Your story reminds me of an experience on American Airlines flying into Chicago on a Friday afternoon after spending the week on the road. We landed early and then proceeded to the “penalty box” while we waited for 45 minutes until “our gate” was ready. Other gates were open, but “our gate” was the only option. Rather than being able to get home early, or even on-time, we were forced to sit and wait. It didn’t seem like “our gate” was any different that any of the other American Airlines gates at O’Hare.
Interestingly, yesterday at Holy Family Catholic Community in Inverness, IL, Father Terry Keehan asked us a classic question about what motivates us in life. “Why do you do what you do?”
At BMA, we operate with the philosophy that what we do and how we do it flows from the why we do what we do.
In contrast to the stories about American Airlines, I was having dinner on a Friday night while away from home on business. I began talking with a couple sitting next to me. I mentioned that I work with a company that manages a couple of affordable assisted living communities in the area. They mentioned that Mom had lived at one of the communities. Their only regret was the Mom, due to her health problems, was only able to live in the community for six months.
Because I was from “Corporate,” they hesitated before continuing. They wanted to make sure they were not going to be getting anyone in trouble. Because of her health problems, Mom would get scared at times. One of the CNAs just happened to find the time to sit with Mom and help her through the situation. Again, because of her health, there were times Mom didn’t feel up to going down to the dining room for a meal. When this happened, food always showed up in her apartment.
They went on to talk about Mom’s penchant for wanting to have snacks available in her apartment. One of the staff members would shop for Mom and bring what she wanted back to her. The couple wanted to be sure that I understood that the staff member always did this on her own time.
We talk often that we expect staff to put those we serve first in every decision we make. I felt so honored to hear an example of how staff was living what we talk about.
Posted by Rick
I really enjoy your articles, there is something true, the babyboomer generation moves in group, so if there is a company that doesn’t take care in quality delivery service, sooner or later they will be in trouble……. thank you for share your comments.
From LinkedIn Groups
Mike Thompson • Steve, First banter about Airline service is not an appropriate topic for discussion on this site; don’t you agree? Second, I have idea how many flights you have taken in your lifetime, but with 1,200, and counting on on the airlines, except U.S. Air, I can tell you for every mishap on American I have had 3 or 4 on carriers like Southwest, United and Delta.
My Response to Mike Thompson:
Mike I am not going to debate this with you, but I am puzzled as to why you are feeling so strongly about this. Do you have personal ties to the Airline?
What I have related are my personal experiences with American and other airlines. Overall the feedback I received on this article was an agreement that there were some good lessons to be learned from American”s mistakes. If they don’t resonate with you I know that not everything I write is going to resonate with everyone who reads it.
Finally I do disagree with you about the appropriateness of the article topic. If you are that unhappy with it, you can complain to the owner of the group and ask that person to take the article down.
But I would first ask which lessons I drew from my American experiences you specifically disagree with or feel have no application to senior housing.
Because several people have been bothered specifically by the headline, I want provide a few further thoughts:
1. The headline of any article is written with the idea that it will be intriguing enough to get the reader to read and react to the rest of the article. Based on the responses it seems to have served that purpose.
2. The article was originally written just a day or two after the incident I wrote about happened. American, with no cost or difficulty, could have made me into a happy customer singing their praises. Instead they would prefer to have many complaining customers, because along the way the will find a few people desperate enough to pay these change fees.
3. The idea that if American went out of business thousands of people would lose their jobs, is simply not true. The passengers American carries would have to go to other airlines who would need to hire additional employees. But in reality an airline the size of American would not disappear, but would be purchased by another airline and most if not all employees would retain their job.
Finally, in point of fact, if American’s terrible management was replaced with great management, it is likely the airline would grow and actually provide additional jobs.
Merry Christmas and thanks for contributing to the discussion!
I guess the title of the article did what it was intended to do, spark an interest and make people think. My thoughts: All airlines need to teach customer service. There really is not one that stands out, and I have flown them all. We need to go back to basic marketing: Treat people the way that you want to be treated…business will follow
our customers are not the enemy. American treats their customers as if they are in a war where the way they win is to give them as little as possible and at the same time extract as much money from them as possible.