Customer Problems

Happy Friday!  Today I’ve got two different items for you to check out on the subject ofSwa_toy consumer
problems.  First, from the New York Times is an article about Southwest Airlines.  As you probably know, I’m a big fan of SWA.  They do their jobs.  They keep things simple.  Their prices are low.  And, they actually make a profit!!!  They’re definitely unique in the air travel industry.  The Times reports that Southwest actually has a "chief apology officer".  His name is Fred Taylor.  His actual title is senior manager of proactive customer communications, but his job is to proactively apologize when something goes wrong.  He doesn’t wait until someone complains, he sends out letters of apology before they have the chance.  He mails roughly 20,000 letters per year.

Think about that.  You’ve just gotten back from a trip.  Your flight was delayed by weather.  You’re mildly  annoyed but you know it wasn’t the airline’s fault.  In a few days you get a letter from Taylor apologizing for the inconvenience and a voucher for a discount on your next flight.  What’s your reaction?  I’ll bet it’s something way beyond simple satisfaction.

Now for the key question:  How can you employ a similar strategy in your business?  If you’re aware (and you should be) of something unusual that’s happened in your store, why not follow Southwest’s lead and send a simple note to customers who were affected?  Maybe you had a power outage, or someone called in sick leaving you short-handed and maybe a little slower to get to customers than usual.  Send a note.  Offer them something of value, maybe a discount on a future purchase.  How do you think the typical customer will react?  How would you react?  Think about it.

The second item that you might find interesting is from The Dilbert Blog by Scott Adams called "The Joy of Righteous Indignation".  Adams describes his training as a desk clerk at a resort in the Catskills during his college days.  His manager taught him how to handle "recreational complainers".  Recreational complainers are people who just like to complain.  If there’s nothing wrong they’ll make something up, just because they like to complain.  You handle them by listening politely, promising to take care of the non-existent problem, then moving on.

Anyone who works with other people is going to run into recreational complainers.  It just goes with the territory.  Strange as it may seem, if you make them feel valued, if you let them know that you care, they can be some of your best customers.

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