By now, I bet you are familiar with the recent incident with Delta Airlines and the returning soldiers. Just in case it has not been on your radar, here is the scoop - This group of United States soldiers returning from Afghanistan needed to check bags from Baltimore to Atlanta. Delta’s policy allows 3 bags to be checked free when flying in economy and any additional would be $200 per bag. The soldiers were not aware of the charge and were not very happy when told of the additional expense - $2800 total for the entire group.
The incident involved an inflexible employee. One of the soldiers decided to tape the encounter and then post it to YouTube. (Does United and the broken guitar sound familiar here?) You can imagine the outcry that followed from the public. Don’t mess with our soldiers!
Delta responded with a change in the policy that now allows 4 bags to be checked free and have promised to “make the soldiers whole”. Delta responded quickly and appropriately. However, would it have been better to never have this incident occur? In the world of customer service, recovery is a key strategy to recoup customer loyalty. This is not the type of publicity any organization wants regardless of the recovery efforts. Millions of people know this story and have the chance to react and form an opinion about Delta.
Here is the lesson for you –
1. Check your policies and discuss what makes sense.
2. How empowered are your employees when faced with these situations?
3. What discussions do you have around issues such as these? Talk about sticky situations at team meetings, in training classes and one on one coaching.
4. Do you have guidelines in place for “exceptions”?
5. Are employees fearful of punishment when using their best judgment in similar challenging incidents?
Customer service must be thoughtful, appropriate and well intentioned. Get your team and policies on board.
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