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Rules: Are They Arbitrary or Do They Make Sense?

It is just past midnight Pacific time, the 27th of December.  As I write this column, I am hovering 33,000 feet in the air and have 2,900 miles yet to travel to reach good old Sarasota.  None of this is particularly noteworthy except for the fact that I just spent 15 minutes on the ground in the San Francisco airport after spending all day traveling west.

Yes, you read that right.  I spent my day after Christmas traveling to San Francisco (where my intention was to have dinner with a friend of mine during my 5-hour layover), just to turn around and fly back home.

So, you ask what possessed me to spend 22 hours flying around the country?  It is the curse of the rules.  You see, I was about 6,600 miles short of being Platinum on Delta.  (You know the airline that Doesn’t Ever Leave The Airport “Delta”.)  Not only did I have to buy a ticket, but I had to actually fly the flight in order to qualify for Platinum again this year.   

So, I am a victim of the rules.  Arbitrary rules.  Rules that in this case are utterly unfair and ridiculous.  I tried to appeal to Delta’s common sense.  Let me pay for the tickets, let me donate to the Delta bankruptcy fund, whatever, but don’t make me fly the flight.  I will pay the money and you can sell the seats to someone else who needs to fly the flight.  Of course, that makes too much sense, and it might allow the airlines to actually make some money.

Once you have the perks of Platinum, you want to keep them so you are stuck.  The benefits of sitting in first class while paying for coach, and more importantly, having priority to get you home in one of the few seats available on the next flight when your original flight cancels or misconnects can be a lifesaver at times.  However, it is the golden chain.  You don’t want to fly other airlines where you are a peasant without perks.  You can’t fly another airline because you need the qualifying miles to maintain your status. 

If I seem a bit bitter about this, it’s because I am.  First, I swore I would not be anywhere close to Platinum mileage this year.  My traveling was going to be curtailed so I wouldn’t even be forced to consider something this wasteful in either time or money.  But alas, while my travel days were curtailed the days I did travel seemed to all be to the opposite coast, piling up the miles.  So, here I sit. 

The other issue is that with all the wonderful “code shares” – airline speak for we’ll put you on another carrier but you’ll still get the miles with us…if they remember to post them and if you complete the rebate certificate in triplicate, yada, yada, yada.  Bottom line is I flew the flights – booked on Delta – but since they put me on a Continental plane and a Northwest plane (after Delta canceled their own flights), the code sharing must not have been in sync since I didn’t get the credits.

After months of fighting to get the miles without flying, asking to talk to supervisors, managers, et al and being told, “they don’t take calls and I can’t give you a number to call them”, I lost the battle and was forced to take this flight.

 A quick sidebar – the flight attendant just served me a Diet Coke with a napkin proclaiming “75 Years of Service Excellence.”  Uh huh.  Must not have included 2006.

What about your dealership?  Do you have arbitrary rules, too?  Do your rules make sense for your customers and your employees?  Do you live for high customer and employee satisfaction, or do you just preach it?

Not long ago I worked with a good-sized dealer group in the Upper Plains.  They have stores in five cities and hold 12 franchises.  While, like most domestics, 2006 wasn’t a banner year, it certainly could have been much, much worse for them.  What is their secret; what do they do differently from the many other struggling domestics? 

The one thing I noticed first was that all the employees and all of the management teams from all of the stores that I came in contact with were happy.  They were cohesive.  Most had been with the company a very long time.  They truly appreciated the owners.  Not only did they work well together, they worked hard. 

The customers all seemed very happy, too.  No arbitrary rules either.  Sure they had prudent policies and procedures just like most all organizations, but they aren’t in pure black or white.  They interpret them to make sense – to make their employees and their customers happy when at all possible and to offer win-win situations.  Situations that promote satisfaction, repeat business and long term employees. 

What about you?  Do your philosophies model the above described dealer group, or are they like Delta?  I often see and hear customers and employees gushing about elite dealerships – both big and small.  It is very rare when those organizations aren’t also very profitable. 

I unfortunately fly more miles than I desire to.  I meet many people.  I seldom, if ever, hear people exalt the virtues of Delta.  Is it just a coincidence that they are mired in the middle of bankruptcy?  Maybe.  But I suggest that you make sure your rules make more sense than theirs do.

Until next month,
Good selling!

Vol 4, Issue 2



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