Three Ways To Turn Unhappy Circumstances Into Good Customer Service

People giving applauseI arrived at Reagan National Airport at 6:30 pm in plenty of time for my 8 pm flight only to be accosted by the first of three flight delays.  At that moment it never crossed my mind that I’d be  applauding airline customer service the very next day.  With few food options and a bar steeped three people deep my hopes of getting home in time to tuck my kids into bed were dashed. Yet I’m here ready to praise JetBlue.

Nope, there was no miraculous early departure of my flight. No free upgrade to first class. Just good old-fashioned quality customer service.

Vocalized empathy – It would have been easy for JetBlue to play the finger-pointing blame game about the delay. Severe thunderstorms swept over the area reaching havoc. Of course, JetBlue can’t control mother nature. But instead of adopting the “it’s not our fault” approach the staff making announcements and answering questions were empathetic. They apologized that the flight was late – can you believe it? They apologized and it wasn’t even their fault. That small gesture made a huge difference! Instead of frustration, everyone kept saying “thank you for apologizing, we know the delay is not your fault.” With a simple “I’m sorry” they changed the dialog and went about updating connecting flights.

  • Open communications with frequent updates – Planes were in the wrong airports, flight crews were in the wrong cities. To put it simply it was a mess even after the storms departed.  Stranded passengers knew there were no easy answers but we appreciated the frequent and detailed updates.  Specific messages like…”Your flight crew is 123 miles from arriving, when they get here we are going to do a quick change and get you boarded” and similar updates every 15 -20 minutes were welcomed by all.
  • Tried to ease the discomfort – It’s amazing what some mini-bottles of water and a variety of chips will do for the human spirit! Without any fan fare staff put baskets of snacks on the front desk so delayed passengers could snack at will.  Having popped kettle corn chips didn’t make the delay any shorter but it stopped my stomach from grumbling. The thought was not lost on passengers for three key reasons. (1) The snacks were set out without being requested. Instead of waiting for complaints the staff was proactive. (2) There wasn’t a lot of fanfare around the service. No one was seeking a thank you, they simply wanted to offer some comfort and (3) The snacks were actually helpful. While they couldn’t make the plane take off faster they helped keep this very tired passenger awake and slightly less grumpy.

Was their grumbling in the terminal? Sure. Some passengers were not abated, but the vast majority of customers boarded their planes several hours late, but grateful for the smiling staff who helped them pass the time.

Well done JetBlue! With almost no spending you turned a pretty awful situation to an almost pleasant memory.