friend, MaryAnn, was on a JetBlue flight heading home to Boston a few weeks ago. The flight
connected through New York, JFK. Her initial flight landed on schedule in New York before 7pm, and the second leg of
her trip home was scheduled to depart at 8pm. The trip from JFK to Boston normally takes about an hour, so with just
a little luck our friend was anticipating being home around 10pm. She was at the gate and ready to go.
But then things took a nose dive. First a text from JetBlue announced that
takeoff would be a delayed until 9:10pm. (Good communication is important, right?) Then another delay announcement, and another,
and another. By the time the evening ended, MaryAnn arrived home at about 2:30 AM. That made for an extremely
Even More Unusual
Before most of
the passengers on that flight had awakened the next morning, their phones had received the following personalized message
from JetBlue (issued at 5:30am):
We sincerely apologize for the inconvenience
you experienced on JetBlue Flight #918. We understand how challenging it is when travel plans are disrupted.
As a gesture of apology and goodwill, we have issued each eligible customer* on this flight a service credit in the amount
(** This compensation is issued in accordance with our Customer Bill of Rights. For more information click here.)
for customer complaints to come in. No excuses or double-talk about acts of God. No hoping that some of the passengers
led such busy lives and had been worn down by previous airline delays that they might not even notice (or take the time to
complain). No delays in the process to run the costs of the credit by some senior manager for approval. Just an
apology and a generous credit.
When the story of the flight was told to us the aggravation seemed somewhat tempered, and the mention
of the quick apology and the $100 credit was a significant part of the conversation.
Is Jet Blue Needlessly Spending Money?
Let’s be realistic. There were a minimum 100 passengers on Flight
#918 that evening, so handing out all those $100 credits just cost JetBlue $10,000 or perhaps more. It wasn’t
cheap – or was it?
Without their immediate apology and the credit, JetBlue would have suffered:
calls, emails and letters to their customer service center – perhaps multiple contacts – from disgruntled Flight 918
passengers.Obviously handling those communications costs money.
- Added call volume resulting in delays in answering other calls from
customers who had nothing to do with Flight 918, thereby compounding the dissatisfaction of even more customers.
- Loss of future business from customers who didn’t even bother to contact JetBlue but who simply decided to reduce their
future bookings with JetBlue.
- Negative word of mouth from the involved customers whose only remaining recourse
would have been to complain to friends and acquaintances.
Plenty of negative word of mouth from customers as they related their ‘night
of misery’ with JetBlue to friends, family members, neighbors, co-workers, and strangers on all those blogs and online
Great Decision; We Think!
have the inside look at the JetBlue business model to say for sure that the cost of all that damage would have totaled more
than $10,000, but it with the price of airline tickets it seems that the potential loss in sales caused by the negative word
of mouth generated by 100 passengers alone would have been much greater.
We’ve all heard case studies about how customers whose complaints
are addressed become more loyal to a business than non-involved customers. JetBlue’s actions in pre-empting complaints
sets a new, higher standard which we have to believe will produce even stronger customer appreciation.
The Underlying Lesson
When you or your organization fails a customer:
- Act quickly.
- Admit to the problem, apologize, and
keep it simple (Don’t start trying to make the complexities of running your business the customer’s problem).
- Don’t wait for the complaints
and the negative word of mouth to get started; preempt complaints by acting as customers would wish you to act -
acknowledge your mistake, solve the problem, show them you appreciate their business!
Customer Experience Partners’ solution to the creation of word of mouth
began with the study of the most predominant form of word of mouth: negative word of mouth. Why negative comments?
A pragmatic reason. A quick online search of “complaint” linked with any brand name, and “compliment”
with that same brand name typically reveals negative comments outnumbering the positives by multiples of anywhere from 2 to
20 times. Are American consumers simply more negative by nature? We don’t believe so. Instead, we
believe that negative comments are in the majority simply because dissatisfied customers – those with an unsolved problem
and those who have been mistreated by a brand - possess the three keys to the generation of word of mouth:
- Motivation – they feel they have been deceived, mistreated or wronged and
they want to warn others or gain revenge,
- Content –
they have a specific story to tell, and
- Opportunity – communicating with friends, neighbors, co-workers and the ready availability
of review sites, blogs and other open chat rooms give them a platform from which to discuss their issue(s).
Satisfied customers, on the other hand, got what they wanted
or expected, typically know little about the category, have little to say about their experience, and have little or no reason
to seek out people or places to express their positive opinions.
Our solution to producing more, and more positive word of mouth became:
loyal, satisfied customers with an ample supply of word
of mouth enablers – motivation; content;
Of course, all customers are not
equally loyal nor able to and interested in communicating their feelings and opinions. Further, the costs of preparing
an entire customerbase to serve as positive advocates would be extensive. Customer Experience
Partners’ solution, therefore, begins with identifying that small percentage of existing customers who
have the highest potential of becoming outstanding advocates and then equipping ('arming') them to be the best advocates for
a client’s brand.
Arming Your Customers
It is sometimes difficult for management teams to understand why potential advocates need to be “armed”.
After all, the individuals selected for the program (through the three above qualifiers) are existing customers who have proved
their loyalty by their purchases over several years. So, doesn’t it necessarily follow that they must clearly
understand the product’s use and benefits and recognize the ways in which it is superior to the competition? Further,
shouldn’t their continued use show that they already know how to communicate with the company and that they have had
a positive experience? Seems basically logical. Right?
Yet years of experience in listening to customers
tells us that all these beliefs are only partially true. Customers of most brands, in most categories
buy because of habit, availability, price and/or emotion. They are busy people who typically know very little about
the product or service except what it has done for them. They may never have read a single word of the copy on the package
or in their service contract. They don’t know if the technology is leading edge or behind the curve. They
don’t know anything about the corporate management or the employees. They may not know how the customer service team
has come to the rescue of other customers or how well they handle calls. They don’t know if they are buying from
a great corporate citizen, or an 'enemy of the state'. They may not know of any other products or services that the
parent company has on the market, or what a great value they are receiving. In other words, many would-be customer advocates lack
motivation and have nothing to say!
So, ‘seeding’ word of mouth is a task demanding strategic
pre-thinking. But, despite the challenges, word of mouth can successfully be created.