In contrast, Leeward Islands Air Transport (LIAT), an airline serving the Caribbean islands, received a huge blot on its reputation when, in April 2013, passenger Arthur Hicks wrote a sarcastic open letter about his disagreeable flight experience with this airline that also got tweeted, then in July 2013, featured in talks by the flamboyant billionaire entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson. Leveraging Branson’s popularity to increase their audience, major news media from leading newspapers to TV channels—including Huffington Post, ABC, Fox8, and CNN—gave this story heavy coverage. By the time LIAT delivered their rebuttal a few days later, the whirlwind initiated by Branson had already seriously damaged their brand.
Follow the ABCD Principles for Unparalleled Services
Many have written about how to deliver great services that impress customers, inundating both online and print business publications with ideas about what to do and what not to do. But the following ABCD principles cover the essentials of delivering great service experiences:
- Appeasement—When addressing a customer complaint, service staff should sincerely apologize for what has happened and empathize with the customer’s grievances. A defect in a product or service does not usually ruin a customer’s experience immediately. It is encountering a service representative’s apathetic attitude that turns formerly contented customers into bitter antagonists time and time again. In a situation where a customer regularly procures the same service, a customer could become exasperated and transformed into an adversary if the person representing the business does not render the service with care and compassion.
- Beyond expectations—To placate any resentment, a company should try to make amends for a customer’s loss, going beyond merely replacing the evaporated monetary value. Just refunding the purchase price, fixing or replacing the product, or redoing the service is not usually enough to pacify a customer’s vexation. Therefore, to compensate customers for their loss of time and any inconvenience a problem has engendered, companies should consider giving unhappy customers a discount on their current or a future purchase, in an attempt to win back their customers’ loyalty. Similarly, when customers simply want to acquire a product or service, providing extra care or amenities beyond what they anticipate is a potent way of astonishing satisfied customers and turning them into your brand ambassadors.
- Communication—Service representatives should also make sure that they clearly communicate to customers what they will do, how they will offer their support, and when they will resolve the customers’ issues. When it is not possible to complete tasks in a timely manner, service personnel should not only provide status information to customers, but also proactively follow up with customers to make sure that they are not blindsided by any unexpected situations. When a service procedure involves customers’ moving through various caretakers, service staff should make sure that customers do not fall through any cracks. Insufficient communication has proven to be a primary irritant that prevents customer gratification and destroys brand loyalty.
- Devotion—Whenever possible, service staff need to take full ownership of completing support tasks or resolving issues. If ownership of an issue changes as a service experience progresses, service staff must relay the proper information to other staff members at each point when ownership changes to avoid customers’ having different service providers repeatedly ask them the same questions. Nothing is more frustrating for customers than being passed along a series of support specialists and having to explain their problem over and over again.