One goal of analytics is to provide the information needed for strategic (and sometimes rapid) decision making. Even if the quality of the information is stellar, strategic decisions still need to have a human factor to them.
Take the recent experience Film Director Kevin Smith had with Southwest Airlines. Any business intelligence or analytics expert could guess that analytics triggered the issue; unfortunately, Southwest lost the human factor along the decision-making process, and now a serious customer service issue has become very public.
If you are not familiar with the situation, here are the details. Kevin Smith is a film director known for “Chasing Amy,” “Clerks,” “Mall Rats,” “Dogma,” and more. If you’ve seen his movies, you know he has a very sharp wit and sarcastic bent.
Kevin Smith, who is self-admittedly a hefty man, was flying Southwest. While heavy, Smith fits within Southwest’s “Customers of Size” policy which says passengers must be able to buckle their seat belt and put both arm rests down.
Smith opted to fly standby, boarded his flight and was awaiting take off when he was approached by airline personnel. The pilot had decided Smith required two seats (instead of one), and since only one seat was available to Smith, the pilot determined Smith needed to be removed from the plane for the “safety and comfort of all customers.”
After escorting him off the flight, Southwest rebooked Smith on another flight and gave him a $100 voucher for future travel.
How does analytics come into this situation? It appears that Smith usually buys two seats for himself. Since Southwest has affordable airfares, Smith purchases the extra seat to sit with his wife, and/or, just be comfortable.
This pattern of Smith purchasing two seats appears to have triggered an alert from a business intelligence or analytics application, flagging the passenger as being too overweight to occupy just one seat.
While it’s unclear what happened between Smith checking in for the flight and Southwest escorting him off the flight, one can wonder if any humans looked beyond the analytics trigger. There’s almost always an anomaly to a pattern and that’s why all analytics information should also be reviewed and assessed by a real person.
Southwest is now embroiled in a PR battle with Smith. In ignoring basic customer service tenets, it treated a customer very poorly. And that customer just happened to be a Hollywood director with many channels available to him to tell his story.
The lesson learned: analytics provide key information, but the decisions fueled by analytics are only has good as the people involved in those decisions.
Spotfire Blogging Team
Image Credit: Microsoft Office Clip Art