“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:
LISTEN, LEARN, CHANGE!
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]