Thursday, December 23, 2010

How Not to Measure Success

Vancouver International Airport (YVR/CYVR), Ri...Image via WikipediaThe phone rang at 4 am.

“We’re calling to notify you that your flight has been delayed until 8:30.”

We had planned to leave on a 7:15 am flight, connecting through Atlanta to Las Vegas. The automated voice notifying me of this change also let me know that our connecting flight would remain the same. Hmm, how can that be possible, we only had a 45-minute layover. But in my early morning daze I let the thought go, choosing instead to re-set my alarm so I could sleep an extra hour.

But it didn’t matter – I was awake.

Two hours later as we were leaving the house the phone rang again.

“We’re calling to notify you that your flight has been delayed until 8:30, and your connecting flights have changed…”

Here it comes… Instead of a second flight to Vegas from Atlanta, Delta Airlines had re-booked us through Salt Lake City to Las Vegas. We now had two connecting flights instead of one. We would arrive in Vegas at 4:30pm instead of the planned 12:30pm. Our afternoon in Vegas was lost.

When I chose the flights, the two-connecting flight option was available at a lower price, but I chose to pay a little more and arrive sooner. And when I chose the flights, I checked the flight data; that first flight had an on-time arrival rate of 80%. That’s a ‘B’, not bad, right? And the connecting flights they re-booked us on have on-time rates of 100%. Averaging the three flights together that’s a success rate of 93%, or an A-minus. Delta executives should be happy with that, right?


Measuring individual flight rates doesn't tell the whole story. We arrived late. Four hours late. And we had to take an extra flight to reach our final destination. My report card for Delta for this flight is something closer to 60%, or a D-minus. My perception as the customer clearly does not match the company’s published metrics.

Ironically, the only one of the five flights we traveled on for this trip that was truly on time was the last leg, from Detroit to home, on the return trip. That flight has a published on-time rate of 78%. Because our flight from Vegas to Detroit was an hour late (due to a mal-function which caused us to sit at the gate in Vegas for an hour), we had to sprint from terminal A to terminal C in Detroit, and caught the attendant just as he was closing the door to our flight, five minutes before it’s scheduled departure time. We were out of breath, but we did make it home safely.

Do you have an example of how not to measure success? Share it here.

If you’re flying this holiday season, I wish you a safe on-time flight. Merry Christmas!


Carol Kilgore said...

I hate flying. It's too big a hassle.
Merry Christmas!

SUEB0B said...

Call centers or web chats where the operators obviously have an ASA (average speed to answer). They answer and then leave you on hold or hanging waiting for them to reply to your chat query. I guess it is better than them not answering at all, but it still creates a less-than-optimal customer experience.

Colette said...

SueB0B - great example! Call centers are notorious for measuring the wrong things!

Meg at the Members Lounge said...

How aggravating! I have diligently checked the on-time rates of airlines, as well as another big thing for me, legroom. I have try and take either Jet Blue or Southwest if at all possible. Last year Jet Blue got us home after a blizzard hit the East Coast and even threw is a few bucks for our trouble.

Colette said...

Meg, I do think some airlines are more accommodating than others. I've had good luck with Jet Blue.