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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Finally: If you know anyone who is looking at emergency call systems I would appreciate the opportunity to talk with them about Vigil Health Solutions.