- Sun, February 25 2007
- Filed under: Marketing essentials
It was a tough week for JetBlue. Staking your reputation as an airline on stellar customer service - which is what they’ve done - and then inconveniencing passengers with horrendous delays was bad, bad, bad. So they’ve been working overtime to make up for it.
Are they doing a good job of it? Blogger Nancy Schwartz says no in her post “Jet Blues: How Not To Handle Crisis Communications.” Blogger Mark Rovner says yes in his post “Why I Still Love Jet Blue.”
Nancy and Mark actually agree more than those headlines would suggest. They both say the best thing the airline did was to issue a heartfelt, authentic, no-excuses apology, though Nancy says it should have come sooner and in more places (she has a good point-they didn’t even have it on their corporate blog for a week!).
Sincere apologies almost NEVER happen in the world anymore. As a resident of the DC area, I can tell you politicians certainly don’t believe in them. A lot of people and companies can’t do them either. How many times has someone said to you, “I’m sorry IF you were inconvenienced,” or “I’m sorry IF you were offended by something I said,” rather than “I’m sorry I inconvenienced/offended you.” We subtly put the blame on the wronged party for their hurt, rather than admitting we caused it. I plead guilty to pulling this crap myself. Welcome to the Land of Passive Aggressiva. I am a part-time resident, though I’m trying to move out permanently.
Here’s the great start to an email I got from JetBlue on February 21:
Dear JetBlue Customers,
We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.
Last week was the worst operational week in JetBlue’s seven year history. Following the severe winter ice storm in the Northeast, we subjected our customers to unacceptable delays, flight cancellations, lost baggage, and other major inconveniences. The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue’s pilot and inflight crewmembers who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you. With the busy President’s Day weekend upon us, rebooking opportunities were scarce and hold times at 1-800-JETBLUE were unacceptably long or not even available, further hindering our recovery efforts.
Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week…
Will this authentic, no-holds-barred apology - along with the Passenger Bill of Rights - be enough? I think it’s way too early to tell, frankly. But they have done a lot to increase their chances of survival by just saying sorry. Because no one really does it any more. Try talking to United on the phone - which I did today. You never hear them taking responsibility for anything.
Now, though, actions have to match words at JetBlue and they have to solve their operational problems pronto. Because in an ideal world, “sorry” is not just an apology - it is the first step toward behaving differently. JetBlue is promising changes. Now they have to deliver. Today was a good first step - as I sit here writing with sleet outside the window, I notice their home page has a weather advisory, and they’re offering free rebooking to people who don’t want to travel on a day like this.
So what does all of this have to do with us? If you screw up with your donors, supporters, anyone in your life, give a real apology, not the “if” kind. Then take action immediately to prove you can and will do better. Sounds ridiculously obvious, but it’s alarmingly rare. Just ask the people I’ve apologized to.
Oh, and I’m sorry if you feel I haven’t been blogging enough lately
. I mean, I’m sorry I have not blogged enough this week.