Tag Archives: problem resolution

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

Something for Everyone

That’s the tag-line for The Cheesecake Factory in Burlington, MA where I had dinner with a business colleague last week.  In my ongoing quest for the points where marketing, sales and service connect, I had a really interesting experience that I’d like to share.

As anyone knows who goes to The Cheesecake Factory, there is usually a wait to get in.  I’m not one of those folks who minds that wait – and they handle it all pretty professionally there, moving things pretty quickly.  We got called for our table which was a small table for two, right across from an empty booth that was just being re-set up.  My dinner partner asked if we could sit over there instead.

Our hostess hesitated and then informed us that we’d have to go back to the lobby and get reseated by “the computer.”  I asked her what that meant and she told me that all seating was done by a computer, and that we’d have to be re-entered and would probably have to wait another 15 – 20 minutes for a booth.  “Would you like to do that, or would you like to sit here?” she asked.  We looked at each other, and then sat down.  Needless to say – we had quite a bit to say about this between ourselves.  A computer.  To sit at a table that was empty and not 3 feet away from us!  Interesting approach: customer service dictated by technology.

We quit talking about it when our waitress arrived – but she sensed something and asked if there was anything wrong.  I demurred – but she asked again because maybe she could help us.  So I related our exchange with the hostess. Our waitress quickly said she’d bring back a manager to talk with us.  I said it wasn’t necessary – but she said he’d really want to talk with us, so would it be okay with us if she got him?  Okay, we said.

He came back, knelt down next to my seat so we were looking eye-to-eye, and asked if there was anything he could do to help us. He seemed genuinely interested. I related the exchange to him, and he was very quick to apologize.  He explained that the hostess was new, and that he was surprised by her comments.  “Of course, it’s perfectly reasonable to want a booth,”  he said.  “I’d be happy to give you that booth in just a moment.”  He went off to make the arrangement.  Our waitress offered us a drink before we were reseated.  We thanked her and said we’d wait until the switch.  “Are you going to be our waitress over there?” I asked.  Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case, but she brought us our new waiter and introduced us.  Then we got moved the the table we wanted.

Sounds like a happy ending, right?  Our request was honored.  Everyone was happy.  But did the manager, Jason Spieler, stop there?  No.  He took it upon himself to exceed our expectations going forward. So here is what also happened in turning around our initial negative first impression:

  • Our drink orders where taken immediately by our new waiter.
  • Jason the manager served our drinks.
  • Our waiter took the time to make great meal recommendations.
  • Jason also served our meals himself.
  • Our former waitress stopped by to check on how things were going.
  • Our new waiter was solicitous, on top of things, and really funny to boot.
  • We didn’t lack for anything – we were completely taken care of.

By the end of dinner, we agreed that this was one of the best service experiences either of us had had in some time.  In fact, I’m hard pressed to get this kind of service from other “high-end” restaurants.  Now, let’s think about this. It started out less than stellar. It was packed in there.  Most restaurants would have either stuck by their “policy” or just reseated us and left it at that.  The Burlington staff “got it” right away – from our first waitress, to the manager, to the new waiter. They worked together flawlessly to reset our impressions and to make up for a rocky start.  Fantastic job!

I told Jason what a great meal we had and how impressed we were with their response to our little problem.  I shared with him a little information about customer loyalty.  A study by Technical Assistance Research Programs ( a customer experience research consultancy) shows that customers who have had a problem resolved successfully and amicably tend to be more loyal than customers who have never experienced a problem with a particular business.  Jason thought that was interesting and noted that he had never heard that before.

Here was another really interesting thing.  Jason shared with me that when he goes away on vacation to see his family, he goes to the local Cheesecake Factory for dinner purely as a customer.  He says being a customer while he is away helps him focus on delivering service to his own customers, and he gets new ideas he can use when he gets back home.

How many of us would visit work on our vacation, if we really didn’t have to?  Now I know why Jason and his team “get it.”  He’s not delivering just meals or good service – he knows he is delivering an experience. And he is a student of that experience.  His company should clone him and promote him.  Thanks Jason!  It was great being a guest in your restaurant.

And by the way, when you go to the Cheesecake Factory, get the Pineapple Upside Down Cheesecake. Cheesecake

Oh my god….I almost caused a scene eating it!

— Lisa Dennis

Fly With Us? US Air Grounds Itself With This Passenger

As many of you know, the airline industry is at a difficult cross roads:  vying for customers, increasing fuel costs, profitability eroding, some airlines even emerging from bankruptcy filings.  Seems like a time when focusing on the customer would be a top priority, no?  Well – not for every airline, apparently.  Perhaps US Airways needs to communicate that imperative more effectively to their front line staff.  Here’s what it was like trying to be a US Air customer last week.

The situation begins at Continental.  I had an initial flight with Continental, which was delayed, causing me to miss my connecting flight.  So, Continental re-booked me on Delta (they have an agreement with them) to get me out on their next flight.  I went to Delta to check in, who claimed not to have the reservation.  A set of flight vouchers and a copy of the reservation showing me booked on the flight didn’t seem to impress them.  They still said they didn’t have me in their system.  Go back to Continental, they told me.  But Delta did have my luggage – which was transferred to them by Continental.  I told Delta that, who still insisted they never had my reservations or bag.  I was exhausted after a long week, and frankly didn’t want to get caught in between airlines.  I needed to get a flight out. So I decided to see if I could get a flight at US Air. I had vouchers that would allow me to fly on any airline.

So off to the US Air ticket desk I went.  The US Air agent looked at my vouchers, said there was a flight, started to book me, and then informed me that I would have to get my bags back myself, and have them rechecked before being put on the plane.  One small problem:  I didn’t have my bags. They were already in the baggage loading area, having been checked at Continental, and then transferred to Delta.  And I was not quite sure where they were currently.

So I tried to explain the situation, and the US Air agent kept interrupting, his voice getting louder and louder. I was not successful in explaining – so I took a deep breath and said “We’re not communicating well here.  Can you let me explain the situation and the help I need?”

He interrupted me, stated that he was trying to help me, but that I was being rude.  Given his treatment of my request for help with locating my bags, I found that a bit ironic.  I tried to explain again that I didn’t have access to the bags and needed his help.  Could he call down to the baggage area (which I had no access to) and ask for my bags to be located? He kept telling me I had to get them myself. This wasn’t possible because they were in an area which is not open to passengers! He cut me off again, tossed my vouchers onto the counter and said:  “You know what? You’re not my customer.  Go back to Continental.”

Needless to say, I was pretty shocked by that – and asked him, “Is this how US Air treats someone who is trying to be a customer?”  He got very angry at this point – put his head down, raised his arm and waved me off.  “Go!  You’re not my customer. You’re Continental’s problem.”

So I asked to speak to a supervisor.  He told me that he was the supervisor.  I then asked for his name (his badge was turned so I couldn’t read it).  “I’m not going to give you my name.” he said.  So I asked to speak to someone above him, which of course, he refused.  I told him that I was shocked that I was trying to buy a ticket and ask for some assistance and that he had treated a potential customer that way.

His response was to snatch my vouchers from the counter, come from behind the counter and march away with them.  No explanation or word to me.  He just took them and left.  I followed him – and told him that I would be speaking with Customer Relations at US Air.  He looked back at me, and said, “I don’t give a damn who you talk to.”  And then he marched up to the Continental desk, which was empty, and he walked behind the desk and threw my tickets onto the counter.  The tickets slide across the counter and hit me.  Then he slammed the door and marched back to the US Air desk.

US Airways’ current tag line – displayed prominently on their website – is “Fly With Us.”  Apparently this ticket agent didn’t know that US Air actually WANTS more passengers.  If asking for some help, and wanting to be heard until you’ve finished a sentence is unacceptable – then how many of us will fly with someone else?  I know that this passenger now believes what the US Air ticket agent said is right – I am not their customer.  Not now. Not ever.

Oh – and I did make it home the next day with the assistance of an amazing, helpful and thoughtful ticket agent at Continental.  She tried to book me on the US Air flight – since it was the only and last flight out that night.  Unfortunately, my friend at US Air noticed the reservation, called her back and said, “We don’t want her.”  So he canceled the booking.  The last flight out – and he knew it.

My Continental agent felt really badly.  She even apologized for the behavior of the U.S. Air agent.  Apparently, my friend at US Air has a bit of a reputation at the Charleston Airport.  A ticket agent, a gate agent, AND a TSA supervisor there told me that he does this to people all the time.  Mary, the Continental agent, apologized for him – even though he was not with her company, and not her co-worker.  She still apologized that I had gone through something so awful in “her” airport.  Mary Platt, ticket agent with Continental, was fabulous. She booked me a hotel room without being asked, arranged for a shuttle to pick me up – and got me a tooth brush!  Oh yes, she went to find my luggage and confirmed that Delta was wrong.  They did have my bags – which flew off to my destination without me.  God, I love to travel!  I can say that in over 20 years of flying for business – I have never experienced the kind of customer “service” that US Air had to offer me.

So “Fly With You?”  Not a chance.  Continental got it right.  Empathize with the customer’s problem.  Anticipate the help they will need.  Do it without being asked.  Cover all the details.  Own the problem – even if you didn’t create it.  Make it all better!   And she did.  Thanks, Mary Platt.  The more you helped me, the worse Jeff, the U.S. Air ticket agent looked.  He obviously doesn’t know what a repeat customer looks like – and it’s clear that you do and you will!

— Lisa Dennis

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