On April 5, I received an e-mail from US Airways as one of their frequent flyers. They said I had 1000 frequent flyer miles waiting for me in my account -because they know I love to travel and they love seeing me happy – yes, it says that right in the e-mail. A typo in the subject line did catch my attention, but other than that, I figured this was a nice PR effort.
Fast forward four days, and on April 9, I received a second email from US Airways – with Oops! in the subject line. They explained they inadvertently sent me the previous email and were now taking back the 1000 miles they had originally promised because “they love seeing me happy.” In Seth Godin’s terms, this is broken.
To give you some context, a few years ago, Seth Godin gave a speech called “This is Broken” that was featured on Ted TV. (you can view the entire video below). Seth gives a tour of things poorly designed, the seven reasons why they are that way, and how to fix them. The seven reasons are 1) not my job, 2) selfish jerks, 3) the world changed, 4) I didn’t know, 5) I’m not a fish, 6) contradictions, and 7) broken on purpose.
In the case of US Airways, not only is this a PR nightmare, but someone had to have done this! The first sign of trouble was in the typo in the subject line of the first e-mail. When you are sending an e-mail to thousands of your frequent flyer customers, attention to detail is critical. Sending a second e-mail with “Oops” in the subject line- and taking back what you promised is just wrong. Does US Airways realize that something is broken here? Do they care? I say not since they mishandled the opportunity to get a positive reaction instead of a negative one.
Now, the manager or director who took the heat from this faux pas may have immediately chastised some poor intern that they burdened with this responsibility of communicating with some of their best customers. But that is not the answer. The best strategy for any business is to retain their loyal customers. It costs five times more to get a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer.
As a business owner, you can take the proactive approach to create a culture and processes that keep these things from happening, or you can react by taking the steps to make the culture and processes better. Either way, it’s a win for your business, brand and customer. All factors that impact negatively on the customer must be identified and corrected if you wish to compete most effectively and profitably. You must develop appropriate customer-oriented strategies, design and implement customer friendly policies/processes, develop your employees to create and sustain customer relationships, and constantly monitor and continuously improve your progress for the issues that are most important for your customer. For more information about creating a customer loyalty program, click here.
Here’s Seth’s video on “This is Broken.”
Seth Godin at Gel 2006 from Gel Conference on Vimeo.