+Scott Watson

Monday, 10 March 2014

How To Successfully Get An Upgrade On A Flight

Successfully negotiating an upgrade on a flight has become somewhat of a mystery.

The days of 'FREE' upgrades have all but vanished, and the published prices of flight upgrades can appear disproportionately expensive when compared to the Economy class flight tickets.

Due to the ever changing aviation legislation, and the fact that each airline providing an 'upgrade' is compelled to pay tax on the seat being used, the FREE upgrade is no longer viable.  But this certainly doesn't mean that you can't secure an upgrade at a fantastic price - way below the published prices.

Below, I've detailed the approaches I use (pretty successfully) to secure a flight upgrade when flying long haul.  I stress long haul purely due to the fact that short haul flights of up to 3 - 4 hours, the quality of service, comfort and actual value in terms of food and drink are rarely much greater value than economy.  All you benefit from is a slightly more palatable meal….and a curtain separating business class from economy.  Hardly worth additional expense!

Visit your airline's web site and check whether there is an option to upgrade your travel class and ticket following your purchase of an economy ticket.  Most major airlines have this facility available, even though many don't actively promote the service.  Why would they, unless they were really desperate to fill the more expensive seats?

Etihad for example has an online bidding facility.  You visit the upgrade page and then 'Blind Bid' for the upgrade.  Their upgrade page has a colourful bid chart which begins with red (for low bids) and culminates in a bright green (likely successful bids).  As you move your mouse from left to right, the likelihood of your bid being 'successful' is increased.  The key challenge for you, the consumer, with this highly visual gamble?  You have absolutely no idea whether your blind bid offer is being compared to other consumer's blind bids, or, whether the airline has set it's own, perhaps high cost, minimum reserve price.  The danger for you in using this blind bid approach is that, if you get so connected to wanting to fly business class, your emotions are quite possibly to take control over your credit card.  And that's NEVER a good idea!


So, my first tip is to steer clear of blind bid invitations from your airline!

Second tip.  Join their Frequent Flyer programme. Just possessing one of the airline's branded loyalty cards demonstrates a certain loyalty to their brand.

At Check-In

If check-in for your flight opens 3 hours prior to departure, arrive early so you are at, or very near, the front of the queue.  Why?  If the airline still has empty seats in a higher class a few hours before departure, they would much rather have somebody paying something to take the seat rather than nobody paying anything!  This is where your negotiating position is strengthened immensely.  But you need to do a few other things to boost your possibility of success!

Be Polite, Collaborative And Smile

Whatever time of day or night, check-in operators have likely had to deal with one or two awkward customers already.  And you don't want to be added to that list!

It's important that you are received as genuinely polite, collaborative and understanding of the pressures your check-in operator has had, is having or things s/he is going to experience with this flight's passengers.

When in line I'll often make a polite, light hearted comment to build some level of collaboration and co-operation with the check-in agent.  If I'm right at the front of the queue I'll approach him or her, smile and say 'Good morning.  We thought it best for you that you get the REALLY nice passengers first.'  This usually raises a smile or a chuckle from the check-in agent, who then suddenly becomes…a partner rather than a foe!  If I'm not first in line, I'll observe which check-in agent is smiling the most (good mood) and which appears to be having some grief from a passenger or two, and then target them as my check-in agent.  Why?

If a check-in agent is having a good day, you can add to it and stack even more positive emotions on him or her.  If s/he is having a tough day, you have a fantastic opportunity to help him or her step out of the negative emotional state, and smile.  You may not truly understand just how much a stressed check-in agent appreciates some light hearted banter, and to realise that s/he is not going to be your victim.  Step in to his or hers shoes when you've observed them having to deal with a high maintenance passenger.  I tend to use 'It looks like you had a tough time with Mr Nasty a moment ago.'  Wait for the response, which is usually raised eyebrows, pursed lips and then a deep breath in…and looong exhalation, and then say 'I promise you I will be completely, absolutely and very positively different.'  Smile as you do this, and you suddenly put him or her at complete ease.  And guess what.  They become extremely helpful towards you.  In the UK, act out the cub scout three finger promise which adds a little more drama, and which puts you in to a collaborative chat rather than adversarial fight.

NEVER, NEVER, NEVER…wearing expensive jewellery or exclusive branded clothing

Why not?  Well. you might feel comfortable wearing your Tag or Gucci watch which cost you £1,000 to £4,000 or the Paul Smith shirt which set you back a few hundred pounds, but what are you really doing?  You're weakening your negotiating position BECAUSE you are openly showing you like expensive treats.  Why would an airline, having spotted your expensive tastes, then wish to provide you with the best and lowest price upgrade?  THEY WOULDN'T!

Pop your posh watch in your pocket and wear a smart, but perhaps unbranded clothing and you're on your way to a good negotiation.

DON'T Ask For The 'Best Price'

What happens when you are wanting to buy a car from a showroom sales rep and you ask him or her 'What's your best price?'  They immediately evade answering your question and then disappear to speak with their boss (real or imaginary).  Then they return and want to negotiate upwards - in their favour.

Avoid this stand-off by asking a different, more collaborative question such as 'Please will you let me know what's the best price you have available for these seats…a price where I can enjoy a fabulous flight..and you can make a decent profit on my purchase?'

This very question is one that absolutely nobody will ask.  And your check-in agent will view your unique approach as a refreshing change.  You'll probably spot a smile on the check-in agent's face and develop a small level of trust, but lots of automatic collaboration and reciprocity.

Have your credit card ready and in view of your check-in agent at this point.  Demonstrating visually a willingness (but not eagerness) to pay for the upgrade does help you along.

Flinch...Like You've Never Flinched Before


When presented with the price of the upgrade, whatever the price and even if it is within your allocated budget, FLINCH.

What do I mean by 'flinch'?  A flinch is a visual method of demonstrating non acceptance and/or disapproval of the information you have just received.  Think of it this way.  When you were a young child and mis-behaved, did your mother ever just have to look at you with one eyebrow raised and tilt her head slightly to the side to communicate to you that you needed to stop what you were doing?  That's a flinch!

Basically what you are communicating to your check-in agent is that 'You'll have to do better than that if you want my cash'.  Remember, just because you can afford the initial price, doesn't necessarily mean you should pay it!  Flinch, and then wait patiently for a few seconds.  In a slightly uncomfortable silence, your check-in agent will do one of two things.

1.  Tell you that the price s/he quoted to you is the only price available. (and it may be of course)

2. Ask you how much above your budget the price is (and then you can begin negotiating)


Always Flinch.  Even if you feign surprise by raising your eyebrows or shock through startled looking eyes, do something! If your check-in agent says that the price quoted is the best s/he can offer, then it's over to you to make a decision.  But if s/he asks 'How does that price sound to you?', this is your opportunity to claim that the price quoted is however many hundreds of pounds or dollars above your budget, and then ask 'Can you do it for (name your price - which must be reasonable), and then be silent.  Why?

If you keep on talking you don't provide your check-in agent with the opportunity to think, or indeed respond.  And by not allowing silence, you may just be missing out on a better price.

Boost Your Negotiating Position With Travel Companions

If you are travelling alone, you can use the approaches above. And remember, a win-win outcome is the best outcome.  But if you have travelling companions, as I did on a recent trip to Abu Dhabi from Manchester, you are in an even stronger position to negotiate.

My wife and ten year old daughter were accompanying me on a mid-March holiday and they had no idea that I had researched upgrade prices on the airline's web site.  So, as check-in - we were first in line as we arrived rather early, I asked the check-in agent if she had any seats in business class available.  What was her likely immediate first thought? Quite possibly 'He's after something for nothing'.  But, as she was about to respond to my question with her own script and agenda, I interjected 'I'm not wanting a FREE upgrade, that's not win win.  I'm happy to pay for THREE seats IF the price is acceptable.'

Having already overheard two of this ladies colleagues discussing that the flight was full and there was a possibility of 'bumping' some passengers on to a later flight if all passengers booked on the flight actually turned up to check in, I then continued 'There's three passengers you won't need to bump if we can get this done now….and you may even be able to re-sell our economy seats too'.

Within just 180 seconds, the helpful check-in agent confirmed that indeed there were three seats available in business class for us to enjoy.  She then continued to advise us of the price (which was VERY acceptable) and that our seats were all on the same row and she was confident that we would all have a wonderful time.

Consider these points before you decide not to negotiate for an upgrade the next time you fly long-haul.

If you don't ask, they won't offer.

FREE is not win-win.  Allow the airline to make money from you - within a win-win dialogue.

Always smile, be genuinely pleasant and consider the check-in agent's pressures and position.

NEVER look so luxury branded that the check-in agent destroys your bargaining position.

ALWAYS use a flinch to demonstrate disappointment or shock with the price, and use this as a starting point to your negotiation.

Have your credit card in full sight of the check-in agent to demonstrate an intention to purchase - if the price is acceptable.

NEVER get so connected to securing the upgrade that you are so emotionally engaged that you can't walk away.  Disappointment is quickly overcome - your larger credit card bill may not be that easy!

Written by:
Scott Watson
http://www.SummitTraining.co.uk/



























Monday, 17 February 2014

Former Greetland Academy Governor Takes School Complaint to Heart of Government

Former Greetland Academy Governor Takes School Complaint to
Heart of Government


For Immediate Release – Interviews Available 


At a time when Ofsted boss Sir Michael Wilshaw is calling for School Governors to be more accountable, one former West Yorkshire School Governor is taking the challenge to the heart of Government.

Scott Watson, a director of a Halifax–based HR consultancy and a former Governor of Greetland Academy, has highlighted alarming issues surrounding the appointment and effective management of teaching staff at the school.

According to Watson, the situation has been worsened by the Principal and Chair of Governors’ evasive behaviour to serious concerns he raised while serving as an elected member of the Governing Body.

Ofsted has advised Watson that it cannot become involved in reviewing the complaint as it falls outside its remit.

“Ultimately, the Governing Body can do what it likes. It’s a license to operate outside the law,” he claims.

"I was appointed as a Governor by parents in November 2011, with a remit to improve the quality of teaching, ensure accountability within the Governing Body and achieve transparency in the decision making process,” states Watson.

“My experience highlighted that the Principal and Chair of Governors were more concerned with paying lip service to the Government’s requirements, while presenting a fa├žade to the community and stakeholders they are trusted to serve,” he adds.

"During a meeting with the Principal and Chair of Curriculum and Staffing Committee, I was encouraged to make a formal complaint against a teacher. Prior to this, the Principal described the teacher’s appointment as 'regrettable'. If the individual concerned was not performing to the required standard, why did the Governing Body waste two years?" explains Watson.

“Given my experience in the sector, it is abundantly clear to me that the incorrect interpretation of Government process has cost the school two years of wasted salary and benefits, as well as an incalculable lost opportunity to deliver effective teaching to students who deserve better, and whose parents understandably expect better,” states Watson.

“And now, Ofsted says it has no power to intervene in the failures of school Governing Bodies,” he concludes.

- Ends -

Editors Notes:

Scott Watson is available for broadcast media interview by contacting Chris Shaw at Sure Media Relations.

  • Governorline is the Government's independent helpline for school Governors. While funded by the Department for Education, Governorline operates independently and provides expert guidance and advice to Governors.
  • Due to the fact that making an official complaint about a Governing Body falls outside Ofsted’s legal responsibilities, the only way to have a matter investigated is by submitting a complaint to an Academy's Governing Body.
  • In essence, the Governing Body would investigate itself.


Press Information:

Chris Shaw
Sure Media Relations
Telephone 01484 696 066
Mobile 07527 448 650
E-mail chris@suremediarelations.co.uk

Monday, 23 September 2013

Managers Need Much More Than Passion To Truly Succeed

Premiership football club, Sunderland have just announced the sacking of colourful Manager, Paulo Di Canio.  No shock for many independent observers, somewhat of a relief for demanding fans who pay good money in a tough economic climate for some level of enjoyment and success, and no doubt viewed as unfair by m/any unions representing football managers.

With a dismal record of just three wins in his thirteen competitive games in charge of the team, Di Canio's record speaks for itself.  But there are several important factors to consider in this sensitive situation, such as:-

Was the Board's decision to appoint Di Canio as manager (after sacking Martin O' Neill) based on a successful track record, cultural fit, technical competence, or something else?  That something else being a passionate Italian accent, a 'Never give up' attitude, and some good PR?

Di Canio is most certainly passionate, and perhaps his Italian accent creates more impact than many of his (former) peers in the Premiership such as Tony Pulis at Stoke (who was fired as his board thought he had done all he could at the club), and Steve Bruce of Hull FC who, with his clearly north eastern accent, doesn't quite match the romance and passion, Di Canio's accent does.

Does a 'Fresh pair of eyes' really add so much value to a team who aren't 'succeeding' or achieving the success the financially driven board of directors and owner demand of them, or at least, hope for?  Not in this case at least.

Di Canio's reign at Sunderland was littered with public outbursts about his team's lack of passion, commitment and motivation.  Rather like former Hull FC's manager, Phil Brown's spat when his team were performing badly.  Brown is now famous, for all the wrong reasons, for not allowing his players to return to the dressing room at half-time.  Instead, he insisted they remain in the centre circle...to receive a right royal roasting from him!  Perhaps not the best motivator, or the best PR for a reasonably respected and successful manager. 

There is a time and a place for manager's to reprimand their team members.  My thoughts are - it's best done privately.  Why?  Because individuals make up teams and the 'one size fits all' approach to addressing poor or unacceptable performance has never worked in terms of adding value, and most likely never will.  But whether it is a football manager, call centre manager, customer service manager, or any otehr kind, the manager is paid, trusted and expected to deliver high quality results.  And this is where responsibility must be taken.

Di Canio is a fine example of a passionate, focused athlete.  But, as in business, being a great technician by no means guarantees that you will be a great manager. 








 

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Spotting When You're Being Influenced To Make A Decision....NOW!


How often do people in business attempt to influence you?  Very often I expect as without influencing, nothing would get done and communication would not exist.

I absolutely love exploring how people influence each other, ethically and not so ethically too.  You've experience the charity 'chugger' who makes uses the town or city centre precinct as their stage to approach you in perhaps an overly friendly manner, in an effort to entice you to stop, listen, feel guilty about not supporting the charity s/he is 'representing', in the hope you will sign up for a monthly standing order to 'support' their charity.  What these 'chuggers' don't tell you is that they are employed by an agency which, if you sign up through their representative, take a commission of anything from 50 to 70% of your first year's 'donations'.  

OK, chuggers are an extreme case, but take a look at the content below which was an initial response from a conference exhibition sales representative following my enquiry about my company possibly exhibiting at a HR conference.

This email is by no means unethical, unprofessional or misleading.  Indeed, it is the exact opposite, and it's a pretty good effort to attract business and encourage me to make a decision to exhibit....NOW!

See for yourself what journey the sales representative takes me on.  Read through the complete email immediately below and have a think about the author's intention.  On the copy immediately below this original email, I've detailed my notes in italics so you can differentiate his and my comments.  Let's see if you and I are spotting the same things!


Many thanks for your enquiry. 

I have had a look at your website and the services that Summit offer would be ideally suited, and of interest to the senior level L&D decision makers that the exhibition delivers.

As you can imagine at this time of year the last remaining stands are being booked quite quickly now, we have approximately 5 remaining.

Price and size of stands are,

3m x 2m £2,322
4m x 2m £3,096
3m x 3m £3,483
4m x 3m £4,644

There is also two other costs that you would need to factor in,

Administration Fee £245 - This covers your for 3 main areas of insurance, Loss Damage & Theft, Cancellation & Abandonment and Public Liability Insurance to the value of £2million.

Registration Fee £270 - However this is refunded in full if the invoice is paid within 3 weeks. As we are are already within 3 weeks from the event and all invoices must be paid before the event we can literally ignore this cost.

I have attached a copy of this years brochure, media pack and floor plan. The floor plan isn't quite up to date with the bookings that have come in this week, but I can still accommodate various size stands that companies may wish to book.

Obviously I would be delighted to have you exhibit this year, but a question I would like to ask is, that bearing in mind the event is in 19 days, does that give you enough time to prepare to exhibit this year?

If you have any questions or queries don't hesitate to let me know and if you could let me know your thoughts I would really appreciate it.

Kind Regards


Copy With Scott's Comments

Many thanks for your enquiry. (not a good start as my name would have developed a more personal, less scattergun approach).

I have had a look at your website and the services that Summit offer would be ideally suited, and of interest to the senior level L&D decision makers that the exhibition delivers. (The author claims to have invested time in reviewing my web site to understand my company's offering, and yes, of course, my company's offering is 'ideally suited, and of interest' to his conference audience.  This is rather like you trying on an item of clothing in a store and the sales rep stating 'Oh, it really suits you'.  Not that they would ever state otherwise).

As you can imagine at this time of year the last remaining stands are being booked quite quickly now, we have approximately 5 remaining.  (Here, the author intends to place me in a visual thinking mode with 'As you can imagine' and then he uses the time of year and scarcity of time...time is running out, trick to understand that 'the last remaining stands are being booked quite quickly now' and 'we have approximately 5 remaining'.  Whether true, accurate or otherwise, the author is using the rule of scarcity to push me towards...NOT LOSING OUT ON THIS OPPORTUNITY.

Price and size of stands are,

3m x 2m £2,322
4m x 2m £3,096
3m x 3m £3,483
4m x 3m £4,644
Notice that the author has not stated that the prices are exclusive of VAT.  This serves to present the pricing as less expensive.  Bu then we go on to other costs to be factored in...

There is also two other costs that you would need to factor in,

Administration Fee £245 - This covers your for 3 main areas of insurance, Loss Damage & Theft, Cancellation & Abandonment and Public Liability Insurance to the value of £2million.  Such admin fees are similar to the charge you receive when using an ATM in some stores which charge you up to £1.99 for you benefiting from the convenience of using their service.  But my company for one has these insurances in place and this 'AdministrationFee' is perhaps being presented as a 'Compulsory Fee' rather than an optional fee.  But one question to ask if you were considering paying the fee is - just how much commission is the event organiser receiving on this income stream?  The author's hope is that exhibitors will simply pay it.

Registration Fee £270 - However this is refunded in full if the invoice is paid within 3 weeks. As we are are already within 3 weeks from the event and all invoices must be paid before the event we can literally ignore this cost.

I have attached a copy of this years brochure, media pack and floor plan. The floor plan isn't quite up to date with the bookings that have come in this week, but I can still accommodate various size stands that companies may wish to book.

Obviously I would be delighted to have you exhibit this year, but a question I would like to ask is, that bearing in mind the event is in 19 days, does that give you enough time to prepare to exhibit this year?   What a wonderfully soul searching question!  Beginning the question with 'BUT' and then accompanying it with a question to create uncertainty and again, scarcity.  The challenge the author experiences here though is that, until he asked the question about whether I was running out of time, I hadn't even considered the possibility.  As it happens, my team and I don't have enough time - so we're not exhibiting!

If you have any questions or queries don't hesitate to let me know and if you could let me know your thoughts I would really appreciate it.

Kind Regards
This email was sent to me 3 weeks ago, and just yesterday I received an email from the same author asking if I had made a decision on exhibiting.  What does this second message chasing business actually do?  it discredits the content of the author's first email which encouraged me not to lose out.

If you want to not just survive, but thrive as  a leader, business owner or entrepreneur, don't just accept what some people communicate to you as true, accurate or win-win.  Take time to dissect their communication and reflect on the consequences and implications of you choosing to make a decision based on their, perhaps self-serving communication.