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James Hong

Sunday, February 25, 2007

is jetBlue apologizing too much? I think not.

I was impressed by the video of jetBlue's CEO taking responsibility for the problems customers faced a few weeks ago.

Putting a human face to the problem and taking responsibility reminds people that his company is not comprised of robots.. it is comprised of real people who make real mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes, so the situation becomes instantly more forgivable. Either the guy is a great actor, or you can tell that he cares.. and that matters a lot. One thing I learned from all my various gigs doing customer support is that people are willing to deal with problems.. they already know the world (and your product) are not perfect... but the one thing they aren't willing to deal with is feeling like you don't respect them or their concerns, and that you don't care. Making your customers feel this way is certain death for even the biggest companies.

Kudos to jetBlue, I only like them more now.

I was surprised, though, to read an article where some sort of aviation expert says the following:

"He has to stop apologizing," said Boyd. "It's over... He didn't piss off every passenger in America. He only pissed off 10,000 people. In New York, that's nothing."

This guy may be an aviation expert, but he is clearly no marketing expert. Sure, maybe the issue would go away faster if the CEO stopped apologizing. But that's exactly the point. The CEO isn't trying to sweep the issue under the rug, he's trying to address it. He's owning up to things... and every time he does, I believe it has a POSITIVE effect on the company's image. He is in effect turning what would have been a disastrous crisis into an opportunity to show the world his company cares and is a company worth liking. He's turning lemons into lemonade, whether intentionally or not.

The statement that "he only pissed off 10,000 people" is an antiquated viewpoint, one that shows this "expert" does not understand a world that includes the Internet. This expert doesn't understand that in today's world, 10,000 people is plenty enough seed for a message to spread across the Internet.

HOTorNOT launched when I sent an email to 40 people. 40. That's it. From that 40, the site grew by word of mouth and we estimate that easily over a hundred million people have actually been to the site since then. If the expert doesn't realize that 10,000 people who had crappy experiences is enough to ruin the company's reputation nationwide, he needs to stop acting like a bigshot and giving quotes to reporters.

With the Internet, you can't sweep things under the rug anymore... and trying to do so will only expose you as a company that fundamentally disrespects its customers. A company has nothing to lose in being more transparent, and potentially a lot to gain. There is a book called the ClueTrain Manifesto that addresses topics like these. It's definitely worth a read.

The next time you need to go to NY, I recommend you try jetBlue if possible. Not only are their prices typically better and the rides infinitely more bearable because they installed personal Satellite TVs into EVERY seat on the plane, but the people in the company actually give a damn.. and that goes all the way to the top.


Blogger Unknown said...

Do you remember the story about a guy who can see ending up in a land of blind and everyone wanted to poke his eye out?? Airline industry is similar.. It is so dysfunctional that any sane reaction will hurt the others more..

7:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've always thought that apologizing is a sign of weakness. Seriously, one should never admit their wrong, made a mistake or don't know everything.

Anyways, perhaps the Jet Blue marketing team planned this all along. Maybe they planned the delays so that they could upset a lot of people and then apologize to them. What better way to show the public that they care and do not act like the other airlines?

It makes no sense, but I'll run with it. coming soon.

4:58 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

These guys really care about doing whats right for the customer and it shows, from the fair prices, to the TVs, to the apologies.

I missed a flight with JetBlue once and had to call to rebook. The CSR was very helpful and fast and didn't even charge me a fee! That experience definitely in my mind sets JetBlue apart from every other airline I've been with. Good service really does make a difference.

Keep it up JetBlue.

11:32 PM  

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