This story truly represents the perfect storm – of the bad experience – where the customer, the employee and the provider — all collided. In this case, both employee and customer were having a bad day – on the same day. The timing was perfect.
Both came face-to-face with their own break points – the end of their respective ropes; they both encountered straws that broke the backs of their respective camels. Whatever cliché you call it, both customer and customer-service-representative hit that “postal” moment at the same time, against the backdrop of the provider (in this case JetBlue, who engineered the perfect environment for the perfect storm to occur in the first place).
So what can we as marketers learn from the Steve Slater story? “It’s about the experience, stupid.” Not just the customer experience – but the employee experience. Something providers overlook.
Let’s start with the customer. Airlines have made the travel experience so appalling that it’s no wonder passengers “hit the wall.” I’m not defending the bad passenger mind you, just explaining it. It happens with any business – a customer hits the wall because the provider sees everything from its own point of view. It’s about their rules, their process and what they need to do to transfer money from our pocket to theirs. Or they turn customer requests down because “the computer won’t let me do that.”
Customer service people hit the wall because customers just don’t get it. They keep telling customers their “inside-out” story and get hugely frustrated when customers don’t seem to hear it. So they say, “take this job and shove it.” And they say things like, “customers are idiots” under their breath – while the customer also calls them the same names.
But there’s a third party to all of this – the provider who is responsible for engineering the environment for both experience types, good or bad, to occur. In their defense, JetBlue competes on the experience, and they did a good job of it in their early days. But of course, Virgin Air is now eating their lunch, by going one better. So one wonders if JetBlue has lost its experience mojo.
What Virgin gets – is that happy employees create happy customers. Its employees are as evangelical about working at Virgin Air as their customers are about flying Virgin Air.
One of my clients, Informatica gets this too. They have extremely happy customers, as evidenced by their renewal rate (because a customer isn’t really a customer until they come back). And Informatica customers don’t just agree to be customer references, they practically demand it. Informatica employees are also enormously happy, as evidenced by their low turnover and internal surveys. They’ve figured out you can’t have one without the other. Happy employees create happy customers. Unhappy employees? Well .. you get the picture…
I’m not saying JetBlue’s employee/customer experiences are no longer in harmony, rather using this story to educate marketers about the pending perfect storm. The dollars you dump into customer experience will be wasted if you aren’t looking with equal fervor at your employee experience as well. It’s not about putting a bunch of service features together, but understanding what customers go through – before and after they engage with you. It’s a much bigger picture than your own particular service environment. There are many things we all do to improve our service, but if we do it independently of the larger experience – we miss the nuances. As any experience designer will tell you, we have to craft SCENARIOS, not just service features.
But here’s the lesson of Steve Slater. In our zeal to understand the customer, we might be overlooking the experience of the employee that delivers the experience. It’s time to put the two together. We need to analyze the uber-experience.
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