There was an interesting…oh, let’s call it an issue….in Fort Worth, TX last week. American Airlines has a hub there. One of their jumbo jets was just sitting on the ground getting its heavy maintenance checkup when the front landing gear suddenly folded, dumping the nose of the jet 6 feet to the concrete. Ouch.
The damage was bad enough for the pilots’ union to issue a statement that the jet may not be repairable (American Airlines denied that claim today).
How on earth could this happen?
Well, it seems that a mechanic went into the cockpit and pulled the lever that causes the front landing gear to retract. Why would he do such a thing? Because to the best of his knowledge the other mechanics had followed the correct process and placed a pin in the landing gear designed to keep it from retracting while it was on the ground being worked on.
The official cause? Miscommunication between mechanics.
In other words, human error.
How much time and money do you spend correcting mistakes caused by miscommunication and human error? Have any of these problems ever occurred in your customer service department?
- A support agent promises a field technician will be on his way immediately. But the work order never gets created.
- An incident ages until it has grey hair because the follow-up was not done. It was forgotten because there was nothing to remind someone about it.
- An agent is the second one to speak to a customer about a particular problem and gives information that conflicts with the first agent’s reccomendations.
Let’s face it. A million things can go wrong when people and processes cross paths. When the process is too cumbersome due to a large number of steps or the need to use several software applications to perform it, the process will break down. For American Airlines the breakdown means some big bucks to be shelled out and a couple of firings to do. What does a breakdown mean to you? Probably some big bucks and lost business.
First, map your processes and see just how many steps are involved in each. Is it possible that over time extra steps have crept in? Is each step really necessary? Or is it a legacy from the time when Bob used to work here and kept losing documents so an extra step was added to prevent problems caused by Bob’s sloppy work habits? And now everybody has to perform that step.
This process mapping will also tell you how many different software applications are involved. Or alternatively, how many processes that would benefit from a software application are being carried out manually. Too much technology on the one hand and too little on the other. You need a happy medium.
A single customer service and support software solution can store all the customer information, keep service level agreements conveniently at hand, perform incident management, and contain a knowledgebase that might have the needed resolution and deflect an incident submission.
That same application can automatically track the incident from open to close including all steps, tasks, and assignments required to complete the incident resolution process. It can automatically alert the appropriate responsible parties when that incident gets passed around to the various departments for those tasks to be performed.
But wait! There’s more! (Thank you Ron Popiel)
This application can automatically create reports so you can watch metrics. It has a dashboard that operates in real time so you can easily see how things are going for your support department. With the right solution, even more automation can be done:
- email response
- escalation of high priority tickets
- incident creation from email
- reporting of trending issues or increase activity
- customer updates
- service level violation alerts
With all of that power and none of the confusion or complication from the original process, you can avoid dumping the nose of your plane on the ground. Your customer service will have your customers sitting up and taking notice instead of getting up and taking their business elsewhere.
And maybe you could get some work done around here that doesn’t involve putting out so many fires created by miscommunication and human error.
Too bad American Airlines can’t automate putting a pin in the landing gear. Oh, and if you want to see a picture of the jet, NBC News has some nice ones right here.