If you want to know what customer service is all about – ask an entrepreneur! If you want to know what business is all about – ask an entrepreneur!
Why? Because entrepreneurs live and die based on their business practices. We share information among ourselves and learn from watching what works and what doesn’t! We’re not always perfect but we do know that businesses who focus on delivering the best possible service to their customers and who accept responsibility when there are problems are the ones who will ultimately thrive.
Some time ago, my daughter had a problem with an airline — she got stuck in a snowstorm and was stranded in Albuquerque for two days. The airline eventually – after a great deal of effort on our part to find anyone who would listen – responded with an apology that essentially said: stuff happens, we were working with a difficult situation beyond our control and, gee whiz, let us compensate you by giving you a voucher that you can use on your next flight with our company.
That was indeed better than most of the companies out here today who, when problems arise and they fail to deliver the service their customers purchased, say something more like: gosh amighty, we couldn’t help it and if you don’t like what happened, it’s really too bad. And it’s much better than the companies that deny that they have any responsibility – some even placing blame right back on their customers.
Savvy entrepreneurs can learn a lot from these examples – what to do, what not to do. They can learn what it means to be in a business that serves its clients, the importance of taking responsibility and how to communicate with their customers.
But today we see an example of the kind of company and customer service that shines head and shoulders above the norm.
Last week, as we all know, there was another major snowstorm. Its impact affected countless travelers and communication systems in the Northeast US and far beyond…even the Internet in Chicago and beyond was dramatically affected by that and similar snowstorms. There was a lot of finger pointing and hands thrown up in dismay at how we can’t compete with Mother Nature.
But one company took a pro-active approach. They wrote a letter — can you believe this — to apologize to their “valued customers” for the “anxiety, frustration and inconvenience”! And, they demonstrated their commitment to pro-actively work to avoid similar problems in the future.
JetBlue is a relatively new airline company. Its founder and CEO David Neeleman, knows exactly what it takes to run a business and to win the confidence of his current and future customers. His vision is to put humanity back into airline travel. When disaster struck, he proved his commitment to that vision. Mr. Neeleman wrote a personal letter of apology to his valued customers and published it together with a Customer Bill of Rights on the company website. He personally re-affirmed on video-specific steps JetBlue is taking right now to avoid such disruptions ever happening again. Rather than just look the other way and go on with business as usual Mr. Neeleman chose to take affirmative action to validate his commitment to JetBlue customers. He didn’t hide behind some glitzy pr campaign. He chose to stand before the entire world in a video to apologize (for what we all know was a disaster beyond their control), reaffirm his commitment to bring humanity back to air travel and lined out what JetBlue is doing to deliver on that promise.
I applaud Mr. Neeleman and JetBlue. I’m not a world traveler but they’ve won me as a customer. Any time I need to travel, I will seek them out first as my airline of choice. Will he and his company have problems in the future? Most likely. Life – even for companies – is messy. But Mr. Neeleman and JetBlue demonstrated that they are the kind of company that we’ve been looking for.
If you’d like to see how a first-rate company deals with challenges, check out https://www.jetblue.com/customer-assurance/our-promise
You may even learn something about how to deliver quality customer service. But, don’t think that this is an approach you can copy and cookie cutter. If you’re going to really learn from this example, study the commitment…and practice it every business day.