In his book The Virgin Way, Everything I Know About Leadership, Richard Branson talks about the importance of turning a negative into a positive customer service experience.
“When a problem is handled quickly and effectively it will create more long-term customer loyalty than if the original service was delivered in a satisfactory manner.”
This was demonstrated recently by Delta Airlines, while we were flying back from Washington DC. On the way to the airport, we received a text saying that our flight was delayed by an hour due to weather conditions. Oh well, “stuff” happens. Not Delta’s fault.
Once we arrived at the airport, another text pops up advising us that it’s now delayed 2 hours. By the time we get to our gate, the customer service agent gets on the intercom, apologizes and announces that because of the weather, the flight may be delayed a further hour.
Now a 3 hour delay. People are frustrated, even though we know Delta’s not to blame. We’re not to bad off as we had a large margin of error with our connecting flight but the other passengers aren’t so happy. The natives were getting restless. But the gate agent doesn’t stop there.
Even though the weather is totally out of Delta’s control, he brings out a snack cart. It’s full of soft drinks coffee and goodies. He invites us to help ourselves to complimentary refreshments while we wait.
A nice touch! We made good use of it. (Especially Terry who enjoys freebies AND snack food and discovered a new favorite – sweet mustard flavored pretzels that we don’t get in Canada. He went up 3 times.)
When our airplane finally arrives and we’re boarding, as the 2nd gate agent is checking our boarding passes, she greets each one of us warmly, again apologizes for the delay, and thanks us for choosing Delta.
Then when we’re on board, the pilot gets on the intercom and welcomes us, updates us and apologizes for the unexpected delay.
The way that Delta turned a negative experience into great customer service isn’t rocket science. It’s an example of Richard Branson’s philosophy of how to handle problems, no matter who or what’s to blame. Delta had empowered each of it’s employees to act as brand ambassadors for the company.
Bonus tip: Discuss with colleagues what negatives customers experience and plan your positive customer service recovery.
It was a handful of little gestures and small acts of kindness demonstrated by Delta employees from the bottom up that got noticed, remembered and commented on. Instead of a black mark the company’s response scored a warm fuzzy feeling that we, the customers were valued and appreciated.
People will remember to fly Delta and tell their friends. And we’ve told two friends (plus you and we’ll be sharing it in our business etiquette training) and so on it goes.
What examples have you done or seen of taking a customer service lemon and turning it into lemonade? Please share your experience or comments with us, below.
Posted by Joanne Blake – Business etiquette expert and frequent flyer