As an entrepreneur, I always admire large global brands. However, in light of recent events and huge customer service failures, (passengers being dragged from overbooked flights, for example) I’m beginning to wonder if we (the up-and-comers) have more to teach these huge companies about a friendlier approach to the customer experience.
While “re-accommodating” customers is business as usual for some, it is an opportunity for small brands to step up and show big brands how it should be done.
You can’t fool customers and why would you want to?
Don’t use words people don’t understand or that feel like doublespeak. Everyone knows it wasn’t about “re-accommodating.” From people wearing a certain type of clothing to the unlucky doctor whose number was picked to the couple on the way to their wedding, customers have lives. Your customers are not cattle or numbers; they are people.
Even worse was this company’s attempt to pass its actions off as something else and refer to policy in defense. Customers cannot be fooled, so the fact that a company would even try gives off the impression that this brand underestimates its customer. It’s a better strategy to assume your customers are smarter than you are and tell them exactly like it is. While the truth may not always be the best news, it’s better to be respectful by saying what you are really doing.
Never blame customers for your behavior
As a startup, we want to win customers over so that they come back to us and tell others, helping us to help them; and in return, helping us grow as a business. The last thing I would want to do is smear my customers and blame them as if their bad behavior occurred in a vacuum. This really calls for a return to the “customer is always right” approach.
Customers are clearly tired of being treated poorly and sometimes they may be having a bad day, so it’s not a good idea to use their frustration against them. While it’s true there are unreasonable people out there, the best thing a company can do is kill them with kindness.
Every day, I remind myself that I’m grateful that I have customers who are trusting in my brand. As airplanes land, the crew often thanks the passengers for flying with them and acknowledges that they know we have a choice. Well, knowing they have a choice in my industry and in any niche, the last thing I’d want to do is blame them for a situation because I will never see them again. Not only are you burning that bridge, but a few other ones just went up in flames, too.
Be nice, but not because others are watching (and filming)
Taking a kinder approach to business should not be protocol just because you fear someone might whip out their smartphone and start live streaming their interaction with you. It should be because you want to be friendly and you genuinely care. When you do really like your customers, they will feel that authenticity and feel good about choosing you.
No one wants a fake. They are easy to call out. Their tag lines and approach doesn’t match their actions. By developing and teaching a culture of kindness throughout your organization, it will come naturally to everyone working there to treat others how they would like to be treated. A “Golden Rule” culture is simple, effective and valuable for any brand that doesn’t want to have to dig itself out of a media nightmare.
Technology is great, but don’t lose your grasp on humanity
With so many of us working remotely and not necessarily having regular human interaction on a face-to-face basis, it may be that society is losing its grasp of how to treat people. As a small business, technology has its place. But the ability to be personable, show manners and exude warmth are now becoming unique ways to differentiate yourself. That’s because it’s clearly few and far between in terms of being offered by brands.
I love technology, but I still love people more. We are all busy and caught up in so much. Let’s remember that we are all different in terms of perspectives. None of us have actually walked in each other’s shoes so when we create policies and train our staff, it’s important to reinforce that we never really know what’s going on in someone else’s life.
That’s why we just take the same approach with everyone: Be kind and respectful regardless of the situation. That kindness could be the very thing that turns their day around and makes them a customer for life.
I know there must be a startup airline somewhere jumping for joy because this is their chance to shine. Same goes with you and me – every kind thing we do offers a significantly larger return – and it just feels good to make someone else smile.
This article has been edited.