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How would you like to be decontrolled?

Niall and I were decontrolled yesterday. A customer service representative and numerous other staff at Gatwick Airport informed us that we were being “decontrolled”.

What on earth had we done in order to incur this punitive treatment? 

Well, we’d been careless enough to have our flight cancelled.

It turns out that the definition of the verb to decontrol, in the airport context, is to move passengers who will no longer be flying from flightside to landside. At least this is the term used at Gatwick.  Now I understand the security implications and I get the etymology of this word and how it makes sense from an operational point of view.  But really, you have no business using such a term to a customer or should I say decontrolee, let alone customers whose travel, business and or social plans have just been trashed due to your service failure.

While I stood with my fellow passengers waiting to be decontrolled and wondering whether this would be a painful process.  I spotted a lovely ad boasting the results of the airport’s recent customer satisfaction survey – “You rated us “very good” for cleanliness – we’ve beaten our target!”.   Naturally it made me ask just what that target was and whether Gatwick should be setting that bar a little higher. I don’t think this was the intended effect of the ad.

So where am I going with this? I’m not ranting about this on a personal level.  And I don’t have it in for Gatwick Airport.  It and City are my airports of choice for London.  These things happen, I’m quite prepared to get over it.  I rescheduled my meeting, I got another flight, nobody died.  I’m beefing about this because I’m outraged that such communication faux pas are allowed to happen.  So without meaning to state the bleeding obvious, communication does matter, particularly when breaking bad news, get this wrong and you sour the relationship with your customer.

I’m coining a new term of my own “to do a Gatwick” to woefully underestimate the importance of customer communications – this is the area where the cleaning efforts should be focused.

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