Two business stories last week caught my attention because of the simple manner in which customer service issues were resolved and compassion shown.
The first was that of Southwest's customer service approach for an older couple from San Jose who's son had sudenly passed away, causing them to change travel plans. They needed to cancel their flight and did so with all associated fees waived. Days later they also received a card from the customer service agent that assisted them. Giving new meaning to the phrase, "above and beyond." The second story is that of another California man from Antioch who was in South Carolina for his Father's funeral when his brother suddenly died as well. Same story, flight adjusted with no fees from United, no verification needed, no questions asked. Just compassion shown.
These agile customer service innovations aren't quite what companies like Asos began doing years ago when deciding to use Twitter as a means to resolve CS issues, or Strabucks crowdsourcing business ideas from consumers. These ideas are often seen as truly innovative because of the adopted technologies used to employ them. And it's fair to perceive them as smarter and better because they've radically changed how business is done at those companies. But what United and Southwest did last week did not necesitate organizational change, a reorg, implementation of a new SAS platform, or new leadership...it was simple compassion.
Compassion made these stories spread online, garnered countless re-tweets, and is giving the airline industry a shot at a comeback. Airlines would be wise to turn these ripples into a wave, by considering ways to innovate the customer service experience. How? That's up to them. But a few of these stories a month and we may start seeing some positive shifts for an industry plagued by negative perceptions.
- arturo gutierrez