A delay due to Storm Ciara means I didn’t get back yesterday – or today. Easyjet sort of coped. But there’s a lot of effort on both sides and lots of mopping up to do regarding payments and reclaims.

On the good side, their app was actually up to date, the delay alerts came through and their flight club changes phone line worked if you waited long enough.

So I changed flights from the one with the 5 hour delay, announced the day before, to one with no delay which became a 6 hour delay which became no delay which became cancelled.

Needless to say we were checking the departing and arriving airport information at the same time as the app. And thereby hangs a problem. Easyjet weren’t in control of what the airports were saying and when they were saying it. Hence confusion and conflict, resulting in calls, expense and extra work for all parties. Keeping people informed is all well and good but some context and consistency is required across the media the customer will obviously use.

It’s the weather, not the airline’s fault. But it’s inevitably going to happen from time to time and to a degree it’s predictable. So why is it always chaos and a mad scramble? What can be done?

But at least Easyjet try to fly. Unlike BA who cancel lots and leave the planes where they want them to be after the storm. “Operations 1- Customers nil”.

The trains were not much better, with conflicting information in the media. For example trains from Gatwick (how many different companies and tickets are there! ) appeared to be advising people not to travel. Whilst on Trainline all the trains bar two an hour were running into London.

It’s hard to give confidence, to be real time transparent. Or is it? There’s a lesson from shipping goods.

I tried out a new photography supplier – prints, frames, mugs that sort of thing. A range of stuff to sample their wares. For some reason they deliver using various shippers. So parcels would be coming through. But they didn’t come when I thought they would. Order on a Tuesday, deliver “in 3 working days”. That meant Friday to me. But it wasn’t, so I was then away.

And a pair of decent new trainers were required. I spent hours in traffic to not get the ones I wanted. You’ve got to feel sorry for the specialist retailer who won the order but couldn’t fulfil it there and then. So lost it back to the manufacturer online, where I’d originally done my research. Actually, no. Come to think of it, the manufacturer then lost that order to a supplier through Amazon who could specify what day they would arrive. Something the manufacturer was woolly about. And they were less expensive.

All this has allowed me in the last week to sample the shippers and their use by the vendor and the experience I have.

I’ve used this experience before on the conference circuit, 3 years ago. What’s so strange is that it is still the same story with the same players and that the sellers haven’t cottoned on to the impact on what I’d buy again.

Houses aren’t full of people waiting to receive parcels at random times. But you’d think they were meant to be judging by the experience designed for them. In the same sense, most people with a cancelled flight, will still need to rebook and get home or reset a meeting or a holiday. People getting trains will still need to find another way home.

There are obvious consequences and activities which the supplier and their providers of goods or information can predict customers will need. So why they are so poorly addressed?

So what would Easyjet, as an example, be doing differently if they learned from DPD? Or from anyone.

They already provide real time tracking within the app of your inbound flight, once it’s in the air on the way to you – one of things that gives greater confidence in the information being presented. There are two main areas to improve: working with partners and actioning what to do next.

Working with partners sharing information – specifically to set a target of getting the airports’ information to be in sync in real time with the information Easyjet provides in the app ( and I suspect between ops and customer services may be the start point ). That consistency and evidencing the consistency ( eg “updated by Easyjet at 14.52”) allows customers to make better decisions on their options. Then working with media to get that message across – not generic “there are cancellations and delays, please check with your airline” but something like “Easyjet latest updates and tracking are available at ….” or help the media with the specifics of which flights are cancelled provided to journalists as simple links they can easily insert in their “UK to drown under the wrong kind of rain” articles without any work. I suspect mostly it would take a person staying on the phones to the media, badgering them to update what they are posting. Surely an efficient avoidance of unnecessary contact.

Actioning what to do is already in the links in the Easyjet app. The problem is they don’t do what you need them do. This is an execution and policy issue as well as a design issue. The policy issue is that they want you to pay for the flight change until after the delay has occurred, even though they are advertising a delay longer than 3 hours is going to happen on a specific flight. The execution issue is that if you are a flight club member you are not going to pay the same as if you weren’t, so you have to phone, ignoring the link to change flights. The app journey needs to recognise the requirement, according to the profile ( you are logged in ) and the context ( they just cancelled or delayed a flight ). The other execution problem was the difficulty of finding the right links to a reclaim or compensation or making those links work when you find them. Only necessary because the delay in solved means booking a flight afresh for money before the flights all go whilst you’re hanging on music on hold.

Testing testing testing all the scenarios from a customer perspective is really the only way to get from a nearly very good but ultimately difficult Easyjet experience to an “easy and it all works” DPD or Amazon experience. There are plenty of lulls between the storms to do this.

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