No matter what the issue may be, customer service is a critical component of IT delivery. Including the “customer service” component in our emergency planning not only builds customer satisfaction and loyalty but more importantly, it maintains it.
Recently, a friend of mine, Mary, was flying on Southwest Airlines from San Diego to Sacramento. While the plane was landing, it began to experience a mechanical issue. After landing, Mary said that she could see fire personnel were already on scene and were inspecting the plane before they even arrived at the gate. All the passengers were ushered off the plane very quickly, and they could actually smell jet fuel, which was actually scary!. Shortly after this incident, Mary posted her story on Facebook. Aside from the nerve racking experience of being on a plane that was experiencing mechanical issues while landing, and smelling jet fuel while being rushed off the plane, she also noted something else that stood out even more to me. Here is her story about her experience.
“After last night’s crazy flight home, the following email was in my inbox this morning………
I’m sorry for the unexpected mechanical issue you experienced after Flight #1414 arrived in Sacramento yesterday. Although the pilots took all necessary measures, I regret any discomfort you may have experienced. I hope you will accept my sincere apologies for the overall situation.
We certainly want you to have a better experience when you travel with us. In this spirit, I’m sending an LUV Voucher* (in a separate e-mail) that can be applied toward the purchase of a new Southwest reservation. You can be sure we are looking forward to welcoming you on board another flight in the near future.
I didn’t contact the airline- they initiated on their own.”
What a great example of customer service! During the ordeal, the only concern the Airline Company had was the safety of the passengers. Once the plane was on the ground and all passengers were safely escorted off, Southwest took the time to reach out to each of the passengers in a way that felt personal, timely and sincere.
Regardless of what the situation may be, our customers will always have their own unique way of internalizing technical issues, and we should be aware of this.
Fortunately, for those of us working in IT, our crises are usually not within the life-and-death category. However, we do have crises in the form of unexpected service outages and systems downtime. During these emergency situations, correcting the problem appropriately is a top priority. Sometimes, unfortunately, we may not always consider the customer’s experience and perception of the issue in our response. Regardless of what the situation may be, our customers will always have their own unique way of internalizing technical issues, and we should be aware of this. In Mary’s case, Southwest demonstrated that focusing on customer communication immediately after a crisis can deliver a very positive customer experience, regardless of the nature of the incident. Effective communication and customer service can also be reached by considering the following steps:
- Think about the communication aspect of an emergency before a crisis. Identify a communication point person for emergency situations in advance. Be clear about what that person is authorized to do on behalf of the organization.
- Don’t expect your technical resources to take on the communication task – they should be focused on resolving the issue. However, do expect them to provide brief updates to the communication point person, who can craft them into a clear message.
- After the situation is resolved, follow the approach that Southwest took in Mary’s example. Take responsibility for the issue and be sincere in your apology. Reiterate to the customer that their experience is extremely important to us. Make it personal if you can. And most, importantly, just do it without any prompting.
One thing that we as IT service men and women can take away from Mary’s story is that no matter what the issue may be, customer service is a critical component of IT delivery. Including the “customer service” component in our emergency planning, as Southwest did, not only builds customer satisfaction and loyalty but more importantly, it maintains it.