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Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Jet Blue Anticipates Complaints Rather than Waiting for Them!


Our good 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...

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 long day.

Then Something 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 of $100.**
(** This compensation is issued in accordance with our Customer Bill of Rights. For more information click here.)

No waiting 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:

  1. Increased calls, emails and letters to their customer service center – perhaps multiple contacts – from disgruntled Flight 918 passengers.Obviously handling those communications costs money.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 review sites.

A Great Decision; We Think!

We don’t 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! 


10:23 pm edt          Comments

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

A Primer on Word of Mouth

Some Background

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:

Provide your loyal, satisfied customers with an ample supply of word

     of mouth enablers – motivation; content; and opportunity.

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.

11:06 pm edt          Comments

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Customer Experience Partners, LLC
Measurement, Management, Optimization
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