The recently appointed CEO of United Continental Holdings took out full-page newspaper ads apologizing to customers and employees for not living up to expectations as a service provider. Since Continental Airlines merged with United Airlines in 2010, the troubled airline has been plagued with issues; including over booking, flight delays, mismanagement; resulting in disgruntled employees and disenchanted customers.
But is it possible, after years of poor service and unreliability, to regain your customers’ trust? The answer is YES! Here’s how:
Do a Public Mea Culpa: Take responsibility, and acknowledge publicly that your company made a mistake. Don’t place blame; don’t make excuses; simply apologize and explain to your customers how you intend to make things better. Placing a full-page ad apologizing and vowing to improve customer and employee relations is right on the mark and a good starting point for United.
Listen: It’s not enough to just apologize; you need to give your customers and your employees the chance to be heard. While listening, make sure to take into account what changes your organization should make based on their feedback and then, most importantly, follow through. For example, United launched a website, inviting both customers and employees to ask questions and express their concerns. Not only is it important that the company read these comments but that it respond to and engage with customers as well. United CEO Oscar Munoz also spent three weeks on “listening tours,” interacting with employees in different cities; explaining, the way to improve customer relations is to fix employee relations first … and he couldn’t have been more right.
According to a recent Gallup poll, disengaged workers cost the U.S. economy about $300 billion a year; in part because they miss more days of work and are less loyal to their companies. If such disengaged employees happen to be working in your contact center, then the likelihood of regaining your customers’ loyalty is unlikely. In fact, 44 percent of Americans will take their business elsewhere after a bad customer service experience, according to a research from NewVoiceMedia.
Teach your employees the skills they need to properly engage your customers: Listening to your employees and treating them with respect is a good start to earning back their loyalty. Yet if they don’t know how to properly connect with your customers, you’re just setting them up to fail. Instead, give your employees the training and tools they need to deliver the exceptional service of which your company is capable. For example, deploy contact center software with a built-in automated coaching system to provide your agents with customized training whenever they need it.
Munoz also said he believes in arming his employees with the right tools, so it appears United is on the right track to earning back the loyalty of both its customers and employees. Following these three steps alone, however, isn’t enough to rebuild your reputation. That is, actions speak louder than words, so follow through with your promises and continually engage your customers—and then your business may soon be flying high once again.