Finding problems to solutions:
Beware the competitor within
I am inclined to believe that every problem has a solution, and every solution comes with its own set of problems. As I travel around the world, I am often amazed at what’s on offer. I marvel at great ideas and I wonder who thought of them. As I spot clever gadgets and brilliant designs, I wonder why the innovation had not previously occurred to me, or why it had taken so long for something so useful to enter the market. Then, shortly afterwards, in stark contrast, I stand aghast at the incompetence that small and large corporations and institutions seem to exhibit with ease and disdain. I shake my head as I ponder under whose stewardship certain policies and procedures were approved. I am absolutely baffled about who is responsible and what led to that situation, and if the chief of the organisation has any knowledge of the inexcusable and hideous decisions being made in the name of ‘company policy’ or under the guise of ‘systems and procedures’.
For example, a client invited me to a meeting that was planned on a small island. There was only one airline that flew to that destination, and it had decided to remain a low-cost airline in order to cater for holiday-makers. At some point in time, the airline decided to offer its passengers portable DVD players (to be hired at five dollars per journey) because there was no other form of entertainment on board. The user-pays system also extended to beverages and meals.
I was sitting at the back row of the long plane because passengers with children were allowed to board first (even though I was the first one to arrive at the airport), which meant that my special executive ticket was trumped by the ‘school-holiday’ crowd that comprised 90% of the passengers. To drown out the noise, I requested a DVD player (having noticed that no other passenger had asked for one). The flight attendant asked me to surrender my driver’s licence. Being security-conscious, I refused. The flight attendant told me that the new procedure was implemented because some passengers had absconded with the players. I said, ‘We are at 30 000 feet. How can anyone pinch these? Why don’t you make a note of the passenger and the seat number, and collect the devices prior to touchdown?’ The attendant was not amused.
I added, ‘How does a driver’s licence in your possession stop anyone from walking off with devices. It only costs $21 to have one’s licence replaced. It’s not a bad investment, if someone were inclined to keep a $300 player that no-doubt cost your company only $50. Would it be worth your while to send a sheriff to repossess the player? What proof would you have that a passenger took the player, especially if that passenger says that the player was left on board? Why don’t you take the boarding pass or just note it in a log-book?’ The flight attendant could not be bothered to discuss the issue with me. Requesting the licence is all she was trained to do. My query was outside her authority or beyond social conscience. I offered to place cash by way of a bond, but she would not accept any other form of deposit. She walked away, and I did not receive a DVD player. Yet, her airline’s website said, ‘Our people are passionate about ensuring customers are delighted… We believe in fostering a culture that is focused on our customers… [our people] are recruited with an attitude and ability to deliver excellent customer service… That means working smarter and always looking for ways to improve [our] systems and processes.’ Go figure!
In this era of identity-theft, all corporations (who are themselves defrauded by this fast-growing crime) should be banding together to implement sensible procedures. The first and most urgent matter is to educate the public about the risk of surrendering their driver’s licence which contains ample information for the identity thief. ID theft can result in huge financial losses and irreparable damage to one’s reputation and credit history. Victims of ID theft can spend thousands of dollars and many months battling to rectify the damage and confusion. ID theft can even cause a lifetime of inconvenience, including endless refusals by banks and airports whose computers cast doubt about the victim’s credibility.
We must be wary of anyone asking for private information. Handing over a driver’s licence should never be entertained. On security grounds, we must put a stop to this practice. It was hardly a necessary procedure on board a plane where there is little risk of a passenger absconding with the goods.
Having written to the airline to highlight this anomaly, I received a reply that proved to me that they had completely missed the point. The letter said, ‘All Cabin Crew members pass stringent security checks before they are employed…’
My letter to the CEO was trying to bring an important matter to his attention. It seems that no-one was listening. In any case, I mention this story with a different question in mind: which department first decided to make these DVD players available to the public, and why did the managers not consider the potential for the portable devices to go missing? The driver’s licence was an afterthought. It was a remedy to a problem. I cannot understand why they did not plug that hole in the first instance. Why launch a program, and then learn about consumer behaviour the hard way? To outsiders, it would seem that the airline improved the situation by implementing a new procedure to cope with the theft of the devices. Is this called continuous improvement? To me, it smacks of a band-aid solution. Unfortunately, their new policy creates a new set of problems. As for the crew passing stringent security checks, one can say the same about police officers and bank officials about whom we enjoy daily horror stories of corruption and scandals. My motto is: never trust anyone who tells you to trust them.
It’s bad enough that the airline did not pre-empt the problem; but it is particularly disconcerting that they could not even understand my warning.
(This book is still in production. However, you can still place an order to reserve your copy.)