Fighting Customers Indicates A Bad Customer Experience

nolegroom-defAs a 6’4″ business traveler, a recent post on CNN titled Don’t ban reclining seats, ban jerks on planescaught my attention.  To summarize the article, a man about my height got tired of people reclining their seat in front of him on an airplane.  His response was to invent the Knee Defender, which is a way to prevent the seat from reclining.  This has made the news recently when two passengers fought over legroom, causing their flight to be diverted and the passengers kicked off the plane.

While, this article tends to lay more of the blame on people who complain over something as silly a reclining seat, I want to make sure the airlines don’t get off scot-free here.  When we look at this from a customer experience perspective, this seems to indicate a greater problem.  If I was a major influencer in the customer experience for any airline, here are the questions I would be asking myself.

1. Isn’t our job to make our customer MORE comfortable? Customers fighting over reclining seats is a terrific indicator of a larger problem.  While I’m not about to make a scene on an airplane, I don’t enjoy when the seat in front of me reclines and jams into my knees.  The article highlights the fact that airline seats are actually getting smaller!  We seem to be moving in the wrong direction here.  Let’s not forget that a more comfortable, happy customer is more likely to be a loyal customer.

2. What is the root cause of the issue? Customers are fighting and taking matters into their own hands to ensure their comfort.  It’s so easy to label them as jerky customers.  By doing so, we miss the opportunity to listen to them and learn how to improve their experience.

3. What can we do to make the sardine can more bearable? I love the concept of Lagniappe, which means a little something extra.  Perhaps there’s something extra airlines can give to their passengers to put them in a better frame of mind.  Southwest has figured out how to not charge extra for checked bags.  Virgin America has found a way to make the instructional video extremely entertaining–and the purple light in the plane is awesome.  Heck, I’d settle for a friendly flight crew (Did you miss Jenny’s post from Tuesday?)

As a customer, I agree with this article that the jerks should probably find another mode of transportation.  The airlines however, had better realize that just because a customer isn’t a jerk, doesn’t mean they are enjoying their experience.  Take it from this tall guy when I say that I would appreciate a more comfortable ride and I don’t feel like I should have to pay extra to get it!


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  • Similar to you Jeremy, I am 6’4″ and hate when my knees get crushed by the seat in front of me. Fortunately, I have been lucky to not have a “all the way tilt backer” in front of me for quite a long time. The airlines try to put as many butts in seats as possible. The trade off for a low fare is a crowded plane. I take that risk. I love the idea of value added flying. Trade offs are the best way to deal with it and SW Air adds humor. So, everyone just needs to chill out a bit..xoxo

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