responding-to-a-crisisOn my return trip from my holiday I experienced how two large companies react and deal with a crisis. One in the right way, the other one not. In each of our businesses we have dealt with or will deal with a crisis at some point. How you respond to the crisis often defines the maturity and professionalism of your business.

We were booked on an Air Canada flight from Frankfurt to Toronto. Due to a mechanical issue with one of the emergency doors, it was determined that only about half the passengers could board the flight, since 50% of the seats of the fully-booked plane could not be used due to safety regulations.

The passengers, who could not be accommodated, would have to stay overnight in a hotel in Frankfurt and take the first flight in the morning.

This is how Air Canada reacted:

  • It took two hours of recurring delay announcements before they acknowledged the real issue
  • When they explained that some passengers would have to be bumped, they underplayed or underestimated how many would have to stay overnight
  • The information they provided was confusing, incomplete, often contradictory and created more questions.
  • The person making the announcements had limited language skills.
  • No senior staff member seemed to be in charge
  • The trip from the gate to the busses taking us to the hotel through a very large and confusing airport, was disorganized, some people got lost and the busses were not where our guide expected them to be.

This is how Hotel Maritim responded when 134 new guests arrived at 9:00 PM with maybe one hour notice:

  • Their front desk was fully staffed with experienced and helpful people
  • Their check-in procedure was quick, simple and organized
  • They provided clear, simple and complete instructions.
  • A large flip chart posted in the lobby listed the key information
  • They offered and provided basic hygienic items, such as tooth brushes and razors
  • Dinner and breakfast were free, excellent and fully staffed

Here are some common-sense tips on how to respond to a crisis in your own business:

  • Have contingency plans in place.
  • Step up to the plate. Acknowledge and own-up to the problem and communicate, communicate, communicate.
  • Have your best and most experienced people in charge.
  • Apologize, even though it might not be your fault

My personal responses to these two organizations: I will avoid flying Air Canada in the future and the next time I visit Frankfurt, I plan to book a room at Hotel Maritim.