Let’s get real. Airlines are just not known for their stellar customer service anymore. But at least one of the old guard, KLM (Royal Dutch Airlines) is setting itself apart and stepping up its service with the aptly named Team Sherlock.
Who is Team Sherlock? Oh just a dedicated staff of customer service professionals tasked with returning lost items to weary travelers. While most public stories of airline ineptitude seem to center around mishandled bags, how many of us have flown and simply left a personal item on the plane, never to see it again? I’m embarrassed to admit that it happens to me much more often than it should. When it does happen, many folks don’t jump through the overwhelming hoops required to hunt down the item. Often, it’s hours or days later before the item is even noticed missing. If you’re the sort of traveler who wouldn’t be able to find an airline/airport Lost & Found in an English-speaking destination, try tracking down your lost item in a foreign country!
What KLM has done and has been testing in Amsterdam’s Sciphol Airport this fall is a process aimed squarely at going above and beyond by locating a customer and returning their lost item to them. In the past, the onus was on the passenger to reach out to the airline. KLM thinks the airline should be doing a better job by locating owners, rather than by just responding on an ad hoc basis to complaints. After noticing that their Twitter feed was being hit up by distressed and disgruntled passengers who’d left iPhones, iPads, sweaters and other personal items on airplanes and were now eager to tweet about how irritated they were, the Customer Service/Marketing team sprung into action.
Rather than maintaining a reactive stance as is typical (usually an airline simply holds onto lost items near the place they were found and then delivers the day’s lost items to a centralized airport Lost & Found station), KLM now has a dedicated team that goes on the offensive. Say you leave your locked iPhone on the plane and it is found on seat 23B. First, the team determines who was sitting in seat 23B and tried to determine if the person from seat 23B has a connecting flight. If they can track that lead in the airport, they’ll deliver it to the owner before he or she may even know it’s missing. If that isn’t a viable option (or the phone is found on the floor), the next order of business is monitoring the message screen on the phone to see if any clues can be garnered in that way (iPhones are typically locked so this is one way to do a little deductive detective work). If a person has the ‘Find My iPhone’ app, they can also program a message with contact details remotely. When a passenger has that sort of foresight, it’s a slam-dunk since a team member has to simply wait and watch for an incoming message,
Electronic devices are the most typically lost items, but things can get a little weird too. One team member remembers a walker that was left by a passenger (who apparently had been picked up at the gate by an attendant with a wheelchair). There have been family heirlooms and toys, teddy bears and jackets. You name it, they’ve found and returned it.
Not every search and return mission is successful. After 3 days, if they are unable to locate the missing owner, the item is returned to general airport Lost & Found. The team’s mission, however, is to not let this happen to any KLM passenger. Perhaps someday this will be standard operating procedure for all airlines. When you think about all of the ways your trip can go wrong, it is refreshing to see an airline instituting policies aimed at making a passenger’s life a little easier even AFTER the flight is over. Now that’s service. Brilliant.
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