Jet Blue: A Little Lovin’ Goes a Long Way

It’s a well-known postulate in the world of customer service, that a customer who has had a negative experience quickly and sufficiently remedied by the offending business tends to be even more loyal to that business than the customer who has never, ever had a negative experience with them.  When I first heard that, I laughed, “Yeah, so if someone smacks me in the face, then says he’s sorry – I’m gonna like him better than somebody else who never smacked me?  Yeah, right.”

Leave it to me to reduce business concepts to smacking.

But in business, it makes sense – the loyalty thing, not the smacking.  Customers’ great fear is that they get “taken” – that they provide their hard-earned cash, and in exchange they get less than dollar value in return.  This is one of the reasons customers fly into rages so quickly when something goes wrong in their interaction.  They sense they are going to get reamed, and they are not happy about that.

But, if they have had a problem already successfully resolved by a business, the customer then has his fears alleviated a bit by the business’ past performance.  There is a comfort level, and a confidence that, regardless of what might happen, things will be resolved amicably.  There is trust.

Whereas, if a customer has only seen a business perform when all is well, he/she has no idea how they may react under pressure.  And all it takes is one bad situation to turn away a customer for life.

So this brings me back to the Jet Blue St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, where an otherwise customer-focused business just sort of melted down, and 1000 flights had to be canceled, including several that had customers effectively imprisoned on the tarmac for 8-10 hours.  Surely, this was a back-breaking situation for the airline, which had spent considerable time and energy building up a strong reputation for customer care.

But looky here!  It seems as though the efforts Jet Blue had put into customer focus before this fiasco, as well as their swift attempts to remedy the ill-will created by it, have paid off.  A recent survey of travelers conducted by Compete, Inc. showed that 14% are actually more inclined to fly Jet Blue since the Valentine’s Day melt-down and subsequent recovery and re-commitment to service that the company and its CEO have pledged.  This is in addition to the 56% of travelers whose belief in Jet Blue never wavered in the wake of this service nightmare.

When a service horror story that gains global notoriety hits your business, yet 70% of your market still believes in you, THAT shows you the true value of  customer focus.

— Chuck Dennis

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