This just in from the #1 Cheerleader for Southwest Airlines, Bill Yeadon:
According to Cool News of the Day (which is one of my favorite daily blogs) Southwest Airlines has even mastered the art of apologies.
The following is from the Cool New of the Day blog post: Southwest Regrets
Fred Taylor Jr. is not officially the “chief apology officer” for Southwest Airlines, but he might as well be, reports Terry Maxon via McClatchy/Tribune News (8/24/10). Fred, along with two assistants, sends brief emails of apology to passengers when something goes wrong. Usually it’s relatively routine stuff, like delays. But sometimes it’s kind of crazy, like the time a female passenger started chewing on a seat cushion, and then doffed her top and ran down the aisle.
In such cases, Fred’s apology goes something like this: “On behalf of Southwest Airlines employees, I extend my apologies for any disconcerting feelings you may have had as a result of the bizarre behavior of one of your fellow travelers. Certainly, your patience and cooperation while the local authorities responded to the situation and conducted their respective investigation is greatly appreciated — I imagine the wait was a bit of a hassle as well, and I’m sorry for the inconvenience.”
Such apologies are normally sent within 24 hours of the incident, and are accompanied by some kind of gift, “usually a voucher in dollars that can be used on their next Southwest flight.” Southwest has been apologizing like this for 10 years and it helps. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “American, Northwest Airlines, US Airways and United Airlines all have complaint rates more than five times as high as Southwest’s,” which has the industry’s lowest complaint rate. Delta’s is more than nine times higher than Southwest’s.
Needless to say it is one of the core competencies of Southwest to have systems in place that prevent complaints from happening in the first place. Kind of like having systems that “answer unspoken questions with unspoken answers” in your company. (Seems like I have heard that someplace before!) We all have situations arise that need to be handled and a sincere apology can create and/or solidify a Customer Cheerleader. In the SFS seminar Steve Toburen talks about the need to have a “recovery system” in place for your inevitable and hopefully occasional screw-ups!
Have you reviewed your recovery system lately? Is your model Southwest or Delta?