Make Sure You Surprise Them in Your Recovery (a la Jet Blue)

Posted on by in Business, Communication, Customer Service, Remarkability

You’ve been there.  You’ve ordered something at a restaurant and it wasn’t right. You brought it to the attention of your server, only to have them begrudgingly take your meal back to the kitchen (attitude required). For the next ten minutes you keep looking for your server but they’re nowhere to be found (probably on a smoking break).  Finally someone else brings your food back to your table, but you quickly realize it’s not much better than the food you sent back–however, by now you’ve resigned yourself to, at best, an ordinary meal (and to never come back to this restaurant).  Which not only means that this restaurant has lost all future revenues from you, they’ve also lost all future revenues from the 21 other people whom you’re going to tell about that bad experience.

Obviously, this is a grave mistake.  In fact, studies show that if you recover well, you have a greater probability of keeping and upgrading a customer than if they were merely satisfied the first time (which, of course, has caused some mentally unstable people (i.e. customer service expert–wannabees) to theorize that all companies ought to tick off their customers from time to time so that they can recover well and create greater customer loyalty :-) . . . bad strategy).  However, great recovery can make a huge difference. And my guess is that Jet Blue’s recovery this week, may end up being in that category.

If you’re not familiar with the story, the Valentine’s Day snow storm of ’07 caused a massive shut down of the Jet Blue system.  Not only were planes grounded (about a thousand), but some of their planes kept people on them (on the ground) for up to ten hours!  Passengers were stranded everywhere.  And even by the weekend, 23 percent of their planes were still canceled.  In other words, Jet Blue, which had created great customer loyalty and is known for their customer service, destroyed a massive amount of goodwill in just a few days.

However, what marks great companies isn’t perfection, but resiliency and recovery.  So, what did Jet Blue do to recover?  They leaped out  in front of congress (and other airlines) and came out with a rather remarkable "Customer Bill of Rights." And to announce it, they dispatched their affable/likeable CEO and Founder, David Neeleman to the morning news shows and put a YouTube video on their website. 

So, what was in this bill of rights?

    •    If you have a departure delay of 1-2 hours, you get a $25 voucher, 2-4 hours = $50, 4-6 hours = one way voucher, over 6 hours = round trip voucher.
    •    If you are unable to board because of overbooking, you get $1,000.
    •    If you are delayed on the ground upon arrival for 30-60 mins. = $25 voucher, 1-2 hours = $100 voucher, 2-3 hours = one way voucher, over 3 hours = round trip voucher
    •    If you are delayed on the ground before take-off for 3-4 hours, you get a $100 voucher, and over four hours, you get a round trip voucher.
    •    Finally, if a flight is canceled due to a controllable irregularity, you get a round trip voucher for future travel.

Is this perfect?  No.  But did they recover well from last week?  Probably (Note: This policy was backdated to be in effect last week, plus they’ve enacted a number of improvements to make sure this doesn’t happen again). The total cost of this program (and the system improvements) is estimated to be around $30 million for last week.  But, and this gets to the heart of this newsletter, you know that this Customer Bill of Rights is remarkable precisely because all of the major media outlets are carrying this story.  No other airline has made these kind of commitments. And no one would have expected an airline company to make them.  In essence what they’ve done is they’ve made themselves economically accountable to us, their customers.  If they don’t deliver what they’ve promised, they’ll pay us. That’s pretty remarkable.

So what about your company or organization?  What is your recovery process?  When you make a mistake (and all companies do), how do you (or your employees) respond?  And is your recovery process remarkable? Note: If you merely replace what went wrong, that’s not remarkable.  Service recovery is about going above and beyond.  It’s about so WOWing your customer by making something right that went wrong, that they no longer focus on what went wrong, but on how incredible you are.

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One Response to “Make Sure You Surprise Them in Your Recovery (a la Jet Blue)”

  1. Dov Gordon 23 April 2007 at 11:09 am #

    Hi Bruce,
    No arguing with your message. However, when I read about the JetBlue Customer Bill of Rights, introduced mere days after their famous fiasco, I found myself wondering if this new plan was rushed without really thinking through the potential complications – similar to what got them in the pickle to begin with.
    Time will tell…
    Dov Gordon

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