At SeaTac this morning, awaiting a flight to Atlanta, I was approached by a gentleman — in his 60s I’d guess — who politely inquired “Can you tell me what state London-Gatwick is in?” “Is this man a complete moron?” I asked myself while quickly responding that London is in England. It took me a couple of minutes to piece things together. Apparently my non-stop to Atlanta continues on to London’s Gatwick airport. Both cities were flashing on the gate’s information display. Somehow this man had not gronked that this could be an international flight and so he assumed that there was a stop enroute to Atlanta in a place he’d never heard of called London-Gatwick. Obviously not a world traveler, or even a frequent one.
While I don’t blame this one on Delta, it reminds me of a communications error I’ve seen companies make again and again. They speak from their perspective rather than putting themselves in the customers’ shoes and asking “What does this person know and expect coming into this communication?” In a former life, I co-owned a vintage airplane that barnstormed around the country. Again and again, I had to remind our flight crew that when we arrived in a new location, neither our hosts nor the welcoming crowd had any idea about our procedures and therefore shouldn’t be treated rudely if their expectations didn’t match our reality. Among my clients, a more frequent sin is to change things on customers without explaining that they’ve changed. The customers are not in the trenches with us so all they know if what we told them last time we communicated to them. We may all be with the new “program” but we need to remember to bring them along. Otherwise we appear arbitrary and worse, untrustworthy.