There was bad weather in Chicago yesterday, so my husband, a professor, got stuck at the conference he was at and couldn’t fly home on Sunday, as planned. The airline told him they wouldn’t be able to get him home until Wednesday! However, there were flights available today, Monday, on other airlines from the same airport. When I asked the customer service rep I was speaking with (yes, I was helping my husband by calling customer service while he waited in line for two hours at the airport) why they couldn’t send him on another airline, he said “We can do that for mechanical problems on our end…but not for weather issues. Weather’s not our problem.” Since the airline wouldn’t do anything to help, in the end, I simply booked my husband a ticket on a different airline and he’ll arrive home later today. That way his students in his Wednesday class don’t have to miss the classes they are waiting for him to teach. To me, this whole experience is a failure of a couple of things you might not think of. First, a failure of creativity. Since customers need to travel, the only question airlines should be asking themselves is: “How can we safely get everyone to where they need to be as close to the time we said we’d get them there.” All airlines could band together to help people during times like this. Even if at that moment, the person is “not their customer”. And, the second is, the failure to understand the basic purpose all organizations (service and manufacturing) exist for: to serve customers. And service means putting the needs of others first. In this case it means creating ways to send people home regardless of internal difficulty (including financial) caused for the airline! So, if you’re in business – any business – please remember, you are there to serve your customer and help them succeed. As I always say, “Ask not what your customers can do for you…but what YOU can do for your customers.” Please also remember, that people are NEVER, EVER $$ signs…and that people are ALWAYS more important than money.