Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Honesty is Good for Business

You can't have a worse week, as a company, than JetBlue had this week. You all know I'm a fan of the airline, but this week, they screwed up royally, stranding and inconveniencing thousands of passengers. Inexcusable. Why did they screw up so badly? A perfect storm of poor decision skills, bad weather, inexperience, and more. Essentially, piss poor planning. But something strange happened, as a result.

They took responsibility.

Think of it for a minute. Enron, Cablevision, United...the list of companies that have screwed their customers and investors reads like a who's who of bad customer service poster children. JetBlue came out, on the day this all happened, and admitted they screwed up and woudl do whatever it took to make it right. And guess what? They are doing what every airline has fought, every HMO has fought, every monolithic services company fights: they have introduced a Customer Bill Of Rights.

Why is this so epic?
  • They did not try to deflect blame. They took it straight on. This is what a company that wants to be customer-centric needs to do.

  • They immediately saw that doing this bill of rights would set a precedent in the industry that could spark a fare war or worse. They know they have to break ranks on this, or they will never earn their customers' trust back again.

  • This will cost them millions of dollars in revenue and profit. They don't care. They can't make the money if the customers are not using their services.

Interestingly, years ago, when Southwest started, the other airlines tried to squeeze them out. Southwest appealed directly to the consumers, exposed their commitment, and they were rewarded with loyalty. Let's see if JetBlue can do the same. My money (and preferred flying miles) are on them.

Here's the email they sent today:

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.

We are committed to you, our valued customers, and are taking immediate corrective steps to regain your confidence in us. We have begun putting a comprehensive plan in place to provide better and more timely information to you, more tools and resources for our crewmembers and improved procedures for handling operational difficulties in the future. We are confident, as a result of these actions, that JetBlue will emerge as a more reliable and even more customer responsive airline than ever before.

Most importantly, we have published the JetBlue Airways Customer Bill of Rights—our official commitment to you of how we will handle operational interruptions going forward—including details of compensation. I have a video message to share with you about this industry leading action.

You deserved better—a lot better—from us last week. Nothing is more important than regaining your trust and all of us here hope you will give us the opportunity to welcome you onboard again soon and provide you the positive JetBlue Experience you have come to expect from us.


David Neeleman
Founder and CEO

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