Angels in the (Out) Field

I’ve never really believed that there are angels out there. I also had this media-created view of angels as these soft fluffy things with wings.

1974, Fort Worth, Texas

I was a child, maybe 8 or 9. My mom was really starting to get sick and we had gone shopping in Fort Worth where we lived. In those days, you went to big “department stores”, which were often multiple floors and frankly a bit difficult to navigate. We had been visiting the old Monnig’s store.

Something happened in the store, and my Mom got really, really tired. This is before cell phones and easy access to quick communication. I remember sitting down with her in the elevator bank and she said, “I think we need to call your dad”. Literally, at that exact moment, her mom walked up who was also shopping in the store. She got home and to the doctor she needed.

In that moment, my Grandmother was the angel.

Was that just luck? Was it divine? I have no idea. What I do know is that time after time, people come into our lives at precisely the moments we need them. And we come into THEIR lives too.

Curacao? Caracas? Close, right? Ummmmmm. No.

Howdy from Curacao. I’m on a week long cruise on Royal Caribbean’s adventure of the seas which is fantastic. We love cruising as a couple and family. A giant floating hotel taking us different places in style for affordable prices. It’s awesome. The cruise lines really do an amazing job.

What NOT so fantastic are the stupid passengers on board. Mostly fellow Americans.

Hey honey I’m calling you from Caracas Venezuela. Oh wait, no that’s Curacao. Close enough.

Yes that’s a real conversation overhead from a fellow passenger. And to make it worse the poor little family that owned the storefront where we were in tried to correct him politely said “no we are not in Venezuela and not with Chavez”. The passenger shrugged and said “close enough”.

Guys. Really. Please stop.

We are the richest nation in earth and simultaneously the fattest, most ignorant and obnoxious people on the planet. There’s a reason why a lot of people don’t like us. It’s simple. We deserve i

This isn’t a new phenomenon. In fact years ago, my wife and I took a budget tour of Europe in 1993 after I finished grad school. We were on a bus for two weeks with some pig farmers from Arkansas that were probably some of the nicest people around, but the probably some of the most ignorant we’ve ever seen.

In England: “Do they drive on the wrong side of the road everywhere in this country or just here?”

In Amsterdam’s red light district: “I guess those girls feel safe behind those windows”

In Switzerland: “cheese, I like cheese”

And the list could go on and on ….

If we as Americans think we can police the world with our values then we need to up our game! I’m pretty sure a lot of people on the planet don’t want to be like us, at least some of us on cruise ships.

Bonaire Jibe

I enjoy the beach and traveling. This is by far one of the coolest beaches we’ve been to. Sorobon in Bonaire. Yep I could spend some serious time here.

This is off the beaten cruise ship path and is a huge lagoon about 3 feet deep with regular trade winds. Awesome spot to learn to wind surf.

If you can run your business on 3G this spot goes down as a top ten choice.

Oh and jibe city is awesome.

Customer Service in the age of AI – interacting with American Airlines bots and real people

I fly American Airlines way more than I would care to admit. Over the span of 30 years living in Dallas the reality is that AA is the only real airline we can use. The good news is we live about 15 minutes from one of the largest international airports in the world. We can be anywhere in the USA within a few hours or Europe by the next morning. Asia is merely 13 hours away and if you are up to a 16 hour flight you can be in Qatar, Hong Kong, or Sydney. Needless to say we love living here. Dallas is a great city for business and a wonderful hub for an international lifestyle.

I have tons of patience and respect for the airlines, especially AA. Over the years they’ve done an amazingly good job of shuttling us and our teams around the world with few incidents. And when those happen they are usually resolved quickly and efficiently.

What I have started to notice though is a slow shift over the last ten years from discretion based decisions by capable employees to more process and rules driven. This is understandable. When you are operating thousands of flights a day with hundreds of thousands of passengers in the air, processes are really the only way to manage them.

So it went yesterday. I woke up like a normal day and wanted to check in for our flights tomorrow to San Juan that I had purchased back in May for a southern Caribbean cruise. Or so I thought.

Turns out I had no tickets. I had simply held the original reservation and not purchased them. Ugh.

To make things worse it was my kids tickets. Doh! No problem will just buy some and get hosed on outrageous pricing. Nope. All sold out. Oversold. I’m screwed. Huge winter blast is in the northeast and the normally friendly agents on the executive platinum desk were an hour and a half wait. Crap.

I’ll save you the gory details of this story. What I will say is the first two interactions I had with AA executive platinum customer support were definitely rules driven. No you can’t do this you can’t do that. No help really. What we ended up doing was making the mess bigger and more expensive.

Fast forward to yesterday evening. Apparently problems from the storms had calmed down and I got a very helpful, knowledgeable and capable person who spent the next hour with me sorting things out. Wow what a difference. She actually took a moment to stop and think about me and not the rules and as a result found a decent solution for my self inflicted dilemma.

So all is well we are good to go and my tweet to AA thanking them was promptly responded to – by a bot I am fairly sure. But hey sometimes even a bot says the right thing.

What this highlights to me is the importance of keeping the human factor alive as we make the bold move to process driven, decision making Ai robots. True the efficiencies can be enormous. But people when given tools and good education can outperform Ai robots every time. At least for now.

As AI impacts our interactions with companies more and more I think we will see this issue more and more. As much as I love technology and business efficiencies that go with it we can’t forget that there’s a real human still involved. You.

By the way, thanks Julia!

A Big Bend in Texas