May 06

Be slow to promise, but quick to deliver

I wouldn’t be writing this blog if the Continental Airlines pilot and flight attendants hadn’t waxed poeticPlane_2
about our arriving 30 minutes earlier than expected.

First, the pilot told us the good news. Then, the flight attendants chimed in as well. ‘Cool,’ I thought, ‘That doesn’t happen very often.’

And, as it turns out it didn’t happen this time either. Oh, we arrived 30 minutes early. But, then the captain announced the following, ‘Ah, ladies and gentlemen, the good news is we did indeed arrive 30 minutes early. Unfortunately, though, there are no gates available. So, we’ll have to sit and wait.’

Thirty minutes later and we’re still sitting.

One of the best pieces of image and reputation advice I’ve ever heard came from a ‘grey beard’ at Hill and Knowlton many years ago. He told me to wait before responding to an urgent client request of one sort or another. He told me to think through my response and said, ‘…be slow to promise, but quick to deliver.’ It was great advice.

Although I’m sure they couldn’t care less, the Continental Airlines crew should learn a lesson from today’s miscommunication. By mismanaging customer expectations, they now have a cabin full of restless, unhappy passengers.

Oh, and, guess what? We still haven’t budged.