The Lee Kenny column: Automation can make a difference – that’s snow joke

Lee Kenny, managing director of Snowflake Media.
Lee Kenny, managing director of Snowflake Media.

If you’ve followed this column over the past few years, you will know I love, love, love the snow! What you may not know is that I have a habit of being overseas when it finally arrives, much to my disappointment.

This week it almost happened again. I was due to fly from Manchester airport, and as a frequent flyer, I took steps to reduce the stress levels and stay over at the airport just in case snow hit overnight.

A glance at the weather forecast before bed, seemed to indicate I’d been a little too cautious with no snow due.

As you may have seen from the news, quite a heavy burst of snow and ice shut the airport runways completely.

Just like in the movies a sea of red hit the departure boards all at once and a collective mix of panic and frustration could be instantly felt.

Deciding to finish my breakfast and coffee before worrying about my connecting flight in Paris (in three hours' time) I was pleased to see Air France’s automated systems kick into place.

A text message explaining my flights were cancelled and that they were looking for alternatives for me came first. 10 minutes later I got another text with alternative arrangements.

It was for the following day and while not ideal, it did help foster a sense of calm rather than annoyance. As I looked around the lounge, I could see not all airlines had followed that approach. Lines of passengers clutching the boarding cards growing unhappier by the minute as they looked for answers as to their next steps.

Air France probably avoided almost 200 phone calls and 20+ hours of manpower by putting this clever piece of automation in place.

It freed up the phone lines for those customers who hadn’t provided their phone number.

How would your business cope in terms of unexpected issues? What contingency plans have you got in place should disaster strike? As the old saying goes “When you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail”.

Here’s a few things you can consider in order to protect your business and reputation.

○ What’s your policy on adverse weather for staff? Do they know in advance? Do the correct people have keys to open up? The better prepared you are, the smoother things will go.

○ Personal contact is always appreciated, but what can be automated to keep customers informed and allow you to get on with fixing the problem uninterrupted? Do you have a text messaging alert system in place?

○ Put yourself in the customers shoes. How would you like to be updated? What language and tone of voice would you appreciate?

○ Remember the Golden Rule. Treat others how you wish to be treated.