Airlines have never been known for their exceptional customer service. Ever since the 2008 recession, airline companies have cut one amenity after the other in an effort to lower costs amid squeezed margins. However, the recession (thankfully) didn’t last long, and coupled with lower fuel prices, airlines have been enjoying record profits over the past few years. Even with these record profits though, airlines haven’t revamped their customer service and training back to their previously higher standards.
This is something that anyone who has flown domestically in the United States can attest to, but since airlines have an almost monopoly, especially in certain popular regions and routes, people tend to tolerate the lower standards of customer service. This was taken to another level on April 9th when officers dragged a passenger off of an overbooked flight. This incident sparked worldwide outrage, as the video of the incident was viewed millions of times around the world, and flashed across every major news outlet.
While this was an extreme example and one particular to the airline industry, there are clear takeaways from this incident that are transferrable to the the retail jewelry industry (and many other industries).
1. Don’t take your customers for granted
No matter how profitable your business and strong your model, it is important to remember that every customer ultimately made a conscious decision to come to you. In most cases they could have just as easily gone to a competitor, even if it would have meant paying a bit more or driving a bit further.
So no matter who the customer, it is important not to take their business for granted and constantly remind yourself that no matter how highly you may think of your own business, that your customer almost always has a choice to go elsewhere. This is especially true in the retail jewelry space, where customers now have the option to shop online for their jewelry. The fact that they have chosen to come to you is a great opportunity to prove to them why the in person shopping experience is far superior to the online experience when it comes to jewelry purchasing. Give your customers the attention and respect they deserve, and they’ll likely stay loyal for years to come.
2. One unhappy customer can lose you exponentially more customers.
The most important thing that the United incident highlighted is that especially in the Internet age where everyone has access to social media, one customers’ negative experience can be seen and heard by hundreds, thousands or even millions of other potential customers. While you can count on certain loyal customers to give you the benefit of the doubt and stick by your side, it’s clearly not worth the risk of any damage to your reputation. It may have taken you decades to build your name and reputation, but one negative experience can ruin your (online) reputation in a day.
One bad social media post or Yelp review can dig you in a hole that can take ten times as many positive posts and reviews to overcome. According to Nielsen, 68% of people trust online opinions from other consumers. As United quickly learned, a negative incident can happen in a heartbeat, so it’s important to always err on the side of caution and properly train employees on being calm and collected, even with the most difficult of customers. This doesn’t mean that you have to give in to every demand of your customer, simply remember to always treat them with respect even if you may feel like that difficult customer doesn’t deserve it.
3. When you make a mistake, immediately own up to it and try to fix the situation.
One major mistake that United Airlines made was to try to avert the blame and not accept fault for the incident right away. This action outraged the public just as much, if not more than the original incident. For the CEO to try to pass off any blame was an egregious error that is sure to exacerbate any ill will.
Mistakes happen, and no person nor company is an exception to this rule. No matter your best efforts, you or your staff will eventually do something wrong that will upset your customer. This is unavoidable, but what can be avoided is the extended fallout after the fact. The sooner you accept responsibility for the mistake, the sooner you can work with the customer to move forward and fix the error. While you can’t go back in time and change what happened, accepting the situation and working together on the best steps to move forward is the only productive way to proceed, rather than emotionally attempting to shift or deflect blame. A heartfelt apology right off the bat could have saved United a great deal of heartache.
This incident was clearly not great publicity for United Airlines, but they seem to not be seeing a visible dip in business at least not yet. But according to a new survey, Overall though, United will be fine in the long run. This is largely because they maintain a near monopoly in their sector, with only up to four airlines servicing most routes. However, the retail jewelry industry is much more competitive. While United may have gotten off with just a momentary PR nightmare, a jewelry store or designer will likely not get off so easy. The more competitive the industry and the more luxury the goods being sold, the more vulnerable the company to negative press. Take these lessons to heart and learn from the mistakes of United before becoming a cautionary tale yourself.