As passengers, we love to complain about airlines. From delayed flights to cramped seats and ridiculous carry-on policies to militant security procedures, there’s a lot to gripe about. But from a business perspective, there’s one important thing we can borrow from the likes of American, Southwest, and even United: the commitment to constant improvement.
At Syberry, we noticed airlines’ universal dedication to aircraft safety, quality assurance, and incident investigation, and we started to think about how similar efforts could improve our business. Here are three ways adopting airline practices have enhanced our operations — and how they can do the same for any growing business.
Detailed Pre-flight Inspections
Nobody enjoys sitting at the gate — or, worse, on the tarmac — while the crew wraps up the pre-flight inspection, making any last-minute repairs and making sure the aircraft is ready for flight. But as frustrating as they are for passengers who are eager to get to their destination, those few extra minutes may be the difference between a safe flight and a disaster.
In the same way, when a company is getting ready to spin up a new initiative based on an innovative idea, it can be tempting just to hit the ground running, but without a careful “pre-flight inspection,” the company is likely to wind up wasting time, money, and human resources executing on half-baked plans.
For a company preparing to launch a new product or service, this “pre-flight inspection” would take the form of careful market research to home in on the right packaging, pricing, and marketing strategy to ensure the new offering attracts potential buyers. For a startup founder looking for investors, it’s the extensive financial and market research that goes into a clear and effective pitch deck.
For us at Syberry, it’s the thorough discovery period that ensures both the development team and the client have a full understanding of a project’s goals, requirements, and timeline. Without this phase, the development process would be messy and inefficient, costing more in time and money than the client had anticipated and, very likely, not producing the desired results.
For airlines, the time required for pre-flight inspections pays for itself in the safety of the passengers. For other businesses, while lives might not be at stake, an upfront investment in research and strategy will pay off in a smoother, quicker ride to the next destination.
Dedicated Quality Assurance
And you’ll notice it’s not the flight crew that’s inspecting the plane, but a dedicated team of experts whose sole job is to ensure the aircraft is flight ready.
In the same way, project leaders in any business will do well to get an outside, objective set of eyes on their team’s work as they progress. That might mean asking a financial advisor to review the business plan before taking it to investors, bringing in a focus group for feedback on a new product, or leaning on the board of directors for their expert insight developing and implementing a new marketing strategy.
At Syberry, we rely on our developers to build software applications for our clients, but we employ a separate quality assurance team to test each application every step of the way to ensure it’s working like it should. Yes, the developers are highly qualified, and they could check their own work, but just like a Pulitzer Prize-winning author still needs an editor, even a world-class developer needs a fresh set of eyes to make sure everything is just right.
And the same principle applies in nearly any facet of any business. No matter what it is we’re creating, when we create something ourselves, painstakingly pulling it from thin air and shaping it to match our vision, we’re simply too close to see it objectively. The improved quality and peace of mind a third-party expert can provide are more than worth the investment.
Thorough Incident Investigations
Finally, what happens when something does go wrong? Whether it’s a mechanical issue, a customer service issue, or a technical glitch, airlines are known for their commitment to not only finding the root of the problem but also updating policies and procedures to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
For example, after the infamous incident in which a Kentucky doctor was dragged off a United Airlines flight after refusing to give up his seat, the airline has implemented new policies to reduce overbooking by 94 percent, require crew members to check in at least an hour before takeoff to secure their own seats, and improve customer service by proactively compensating passengers when issues arise.
Furthermore, several other airlines updated their own policies in response to United’s mistake: Delta increased the compensation for customers who give up seats to nearly $10,000, and American Airlines committed not to involuntarily remove already-boarded revenue passengers in order to open seats for others.
While the incident itself was bad any way you look at it, the response from both United and its competitors offers an important lesson for businesses. When something goes wrong, it’s important to figure out why, but it’s even more important to take action to ensure it doesn’t happen again.
At Syberry, if we fumble important customer communication, we share the incident with our team and discuss how to avoid making the same mistake in the future. When we find significant coding errors or bugs in the components we’re using to build software, we work with our developers to find long-term solutions.
While, when a problem arises, it may seem easier to stick your head in the sand and hope it’s a one-time thing, avoiding the issue will only lead to further mistakes, costlier solutions, and likely a damaged reputation.
While these quality-assurance and improvement practices often involve a significant upfront investment in time, money, or both, anyone who’s ever started a project without fully understanding the details, or made the same mistakes over and over, can attest to the savings these investments yield in the long run — in the form of money, time, headaches, and reputation.
Our biggest advice to growing businesses? Think like an airline.