Salvaging the Customer Relationship When Things Go Wrong

frustrated traveler with luggageI love traveling, but detours and interruptions can make it incredibly frustrating. A recent travel experience reminded me that sometimes companies can’t fix their mistakes, but they can mitigate them effectively and leave customers feeling like the best was made of a bad situation.

The Final Detour

At the end of our recent vacation—one that had been filled with weather related detours—we were notified on our way to the airport that our flight home had been cancelled. When we arrived at the airport we were informed that the plane had broken down in LA and that it could not be repaired until too late in the evening. Our flight was cancelled. Additionally, no other plane was being sent and all other flights for the day out of the airport on other carriers had already left. The next flight was at 5:30pm the following day (Monday) and they were unsure if there were seats available.

This created a serious problem as all of us needed to be at work Monday morning. The Alaska Airlines representative that was helping us suggested that we drive 2.5 hours to Boise and catch the 6 a.m. flight to Portland. While this was unappealing, it was our best option. He called and reserved us rooms at a Boise hotel near the airport, re-booked us on the Boise flight, wrote us a check to cover the extension of our rental car and gas, and gave us food vouchers for dinner and breakfast. While all of this was happening, Alaska Airlines sent us a text message apologizing for problem and informing us that we would each receive a $300 travel voucher.

Relational Damage Control

While I would have liked the airline to send a replacement plane to fly us to Portland as scheduled, their handling of the situation was a decent resolution to a bad situation. The steps Alaska Airlines employed are a solid customer service model to help mitigate damage in customer trust/relationships. They quickly acknowledged the problem and notified us of compensation. They empowered their employees to find a way to get us to our destination at no additional cost to us. Moreover, they did it in a way that was fairly hassle free. We didn’t have to submit receipts and wait for reimbursement from a corporate machine.

Sometimes in the course of business, companies can’t deliver what they have promised. I believe that customers understand this and—when handled correctly—the damage to the customer relationship can be greatly diminished.

Do you have an experience where a company worked to repair the relationship? Let us know on LinkedIn or Twitter.

— Aaron Baldwin, Senior Designer