A client of mine tells his staff “everyone is going to make mistakes, its how you respond to those times that matter.”
In essence, it is a primer for crisis communications 101.
Putting a twist on my client’s words, when things go wrong, and they will, every organization has a chance to reset the customer experience.
The airline industry is a place where you see customer expectations fall short on a regular basis. It just happens. We’ve all seen how airlines have, and have not, done a good job resetting the customer experience.
When twitter was in its infancy, I groused about the Delta Airlines boarding process and how their many different “zones” reminded me of Dante’s Inferno. The person who handled the airline social media account reached out and said my tweet was making the rounds. That’s nice. But, for the most part, nothing has changed.
United Airlines flight attendants just looked at me with puppy dog eyes when someone who really needed two seats was doing what he could to fit into one seat. I raised the arm rest and commented “come on in the water is fine.” I then sat through the next two and a half hours contorted in my seat trying to do my best to give my seat mate “space”.
On another United flight, I gave up my window seat so a family could sit together. The attendants rewarded me with an emergency exit row to myself. That was nice.
American Airlines… don’t get me started.
But Southwest Airlines, in the spirit of full disclosure I was an A-List member, has found a way to master resetting customer expectations. My flight yesterday (documented on Instagram Stories) was scheduled to be five and a half hours. Because of mechanical issues with the airplane, it ended up being closer to a ten hour trip.
It was just one of those days that the word “delay” was in play… all day!
The apologies from the pilot and flight attendants were nice. Lord knows they also wanted to have the never-ending flight end.
But, this morning, at the top of my email was a message from “Allison” with the Proactive Customer Communications team. Her message went like this… I’m so sorry for the delay you experienced in Phoenix yesterday due to an unexpected maintenance issue. [yada yada yada] We would like to invite you back for a more pleasant travel experience. In this spirit I’m sending you a LUV Voucher that can be applied as a form of payment toward a new Southwest reservation. We look forward to welcoming you onboard another flight in the near future.
That is how you reset the customer experience. It wasn’t the voucher, don’t get me wrong, that’s nice. It was the follow through.