Why do I bother? Part II

[private]Businessman screamingIf you’ve stuck with me this far on this topic I ended my diatribe against AA’s pitiful “customer relations” efforts with these comments:

“An obviously canned reply that totally missed the point of a carefully handcrafted letter by a valuable customer (I fly American a lot) that could save American Airlines a lot of grief in the future. I could care less about the missed flight. My letter had to do with a pit of a hotel they are sticking people in and they basically IGNORED ME with a patronizing pat on the head! So what all can you learn from this frustrating scenario in your business …”

Fair enough, what can YOU take away from AA’s public relations disaster and apply in your business? (If you haven’t done so you may want to read my preceding “Why do I bother?” blog post.)

First, make it easy for customers to give input and/or vent-  The web-site at AA is cunningly designed to (heaven forbid) keep an American Airlines employee from actually talking to a live customer or even receiving a return e-mail on their canned reply.  For example, note this footer to their e-mail to me:

“This is an “outgoing only” email address. If you ‘reply’ to this message by simply selecting the reply button, we will not receive your additional comments. Please assist us in providing you with a timely response to any feedback you have for us by always sending us your email messages via AA.com.

In other words, you get to start the entire torturous process over again if you want to start a dialogue on this matter.  Stupid, stupid, stupid.  Why would any company not want to converse with their customers?  So how about you?  Are you encouraging a “dialogue” with your customers?  Here are a few ways:

a)  Stamped comment cards left at the house are a tried and true system.

b) A follow-up Quality Check Call the following day is even better.  (And yes, SFS members receive the entire system on how to set this up in their company.)

c) A “review section” in your company web-site where customers can share their experiences.  (And yes, we have a section here where SFS members are encouraged to share.)

d) Encouraging customers to rate your services on sites like Angieslist.com.

e) Include your personal cell phone on all literature and the company web site.

Second, once you are dealing with an unhappy customer actually LISTEN to them and don’t blow them off/patronize them like AA did with me.  (I think we need a separate post here and maybe even a Special Report on how to work with unhappy clients.)  Reach out to them yourself if possible.  Why?

Remember that the most valuable thing you gain from learning from a ticked-off customer is not their future business.  Instead, you personally need to look through their “Customer Eyeglasses”, a view of your company to help you change the boneheaded procedure(s) that let to the problem in the first place!  In other words, this complaining customer is willing to be an “unpaid consultant for change”- IF you let them!  This isn’t “rocket science”.  Here are your three steps:



PS  Poor American Airlines.  They just don’t get it.  Don’t even get Big Billy Yeadon and Jeff Cutshall waxing eloquent on the benefits of flying Southwest instead of AA!  I think someone from Southwest sneaked into SFS years ago and copied all of our Value Added Service techniques into the airline industry![/private]

2 thoughts on “Why do I bother? Part II”

  1. Well at least my compadre realized that you can’t teach an old dog (American not Steve) new tricks. Southwest was built from day one on one value. What can we do to make our customers experience a great one.

    Now don’t think that Southwest doesn’t occasionally have an off day. We all do. What Steve was trying to say is that it is in the recovery where you can really shine.

    For the most part people are reasonable. (I know having 6 dogs in a 1 BR apartment and wondering why it smells may not seem reasonable.) But they will forgive you for making a mistake if you handle it well.

    American would have been better off not responding than sending off a computer answer. That only infuriates you. I bet the Island Boy had to have an extra margarita in the DR just to calm down.

    When I read the industry bulletin boards I am amazed how many people respond to a complaint with hostility. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong you need to take care of the customer and the faster the better. Settle it and later in a calm moment decide whether or not you want to work for that customer again.

    By the way Steve I just bought a ticket this afternoon from Southwest. I had a few tickets that I had not used due to schedule changes. How much did SW charge me for this inconvenience to them.
    ZERO and I used my full ticket price towards my new ticket.

    Let me say that again: ZERO the same amount of business you should give American in the future.

  2. Can’t say I disagree with you, Big Billy, EXCEPT that from a practical standpoint if you want to fly into Santiago, D.R. from any place other than Miami or New York, you are stuck with American! (There have been persistent rumors about SW flying into Punta Cana here, But Punta Cana is like as far as you can get from Santiago and still be in the DR! (Like 7 to 8 hours of brutal driving.)

    Steve “Island Boy” Toburen

    PS Plus, much as I dislike American they are a fascinating “flying laboratory” for me in how NOT to do things! The same goes for you folks. Every time you buy ANYTHING you should be analyzing what you like, what you dislike and what you would do to change things if you were the boss. Well, you are- in your own company. So put on your Customer’s Eyeglasses and quit picking on poor, doesn’t-have-a-clue AA! Just git ‘er done!

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