Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Turn a Customer Service Frown Upside Down - Part One

Hello Again!

It's been a while since my last post but I've had a great time listening to your feedback and ideas (thanks!) and also researching this next topic.  My last couple of posts covered the power of Thank You and recognition in the workplace.  The next two posts talk about how recognizing a job poorly done and reassuring your customers can mitigate damage or even further engender loyalty.

If we take a stroll down memory lane to February, 2007, we can recall a horrible winter storm that severely impacted Jet Blue's operations such that many flights were cancelled, travelers stuck on airplanes for up to eleven hours, pilots and flight attendants were stranded and the operations staff were completely overwhelmed.  It was truly a Perfect Storm any way you look at it - pun intended.

What did then CEO David Neeleman do?  He apologized in a big way which was unprecedented for a CEO.  He went straight to Youtube and expressed remorse and regret to his customers - also unprecedented.  It was a mea culpa of epic proportions.  Really - did the Lehman leadership apologize when it went down in flames?  I recommend a quick viewing before I go further.   

Pretty amazing, no?  There was generally a hearty round of applause for the (perceived) sincere apology. So what is my point in bringing this up lo these 2.5 years later?  The way they handled this debacle was so masterful that it is an asterisk in their history (a costly one to be sure) as opposed to the thing that defined it, or worse, destroyed it.  

Why?  Well, in my readings this week, I came across an interesting acronym from this article about Customer Winback.  The author suggests using LESTER the next time you deal with an irate customer.  Let's use Jet Blue as the active example:

Listen: This is twofold: hearing what someone has to say and then absorbing.  We often do the former but forget to do the latter.  In this case, there clearly was a lot of feedback to Jet Blue during the storm and the days following.  David Neeleman clearly heard and absorbed it.  While he doesn't explicitly say he's listening, the fact that he posted the video infers it.

Echo: This is a tool to assure the customer that listening actually took place.  By repeating what you've heard, you can assure your customer that you have absorbed the message and are engaged in their complaint.  In the video, he acknowledges the operational failures and the severe discomfort the customers endured.

Sympathize: This needs no explanation, really.  We have to demonstrate to our customers that while we don't know what it's like to be in their shoes, that we can appreciate their discomfort.  In the Bill of Rights, his promises to improve the reservations system is a tacit admission that the difficulty customers had in talking to a "live" person to rebook a flight or get more information as well as the awful frustration that went with that.

In the next post, I will cover the rest of the LESTER acronym: Thanking, Evaluating and Responding.  We will also chat about what I think is missing from LESTER.  I will introduce you to my acronym: a refreshing cup of TEA!

As always, I welcome your feedback and thoughts!



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