Friday, February 23, 2007

Understanding mistakes

I love JetBlue. I like their look and feel, I like the customer service I have gotten from them--both in person on the phones and over the phone when I've had to fix tickets. So it was with some shock that I read about their multiple snafus in the snow/icestorm that shut down many east coast airports last week.

And when I read the apology from Dave Neeleman, their CEO, in my email inbox earlier this week, I thought that their acceptance of responsibility would go a long way towards their rehabilitation. But when I brought it up with my colleagues didn't see it that way, and rightly so. They pointed out that they didn't explain what went wrong and they didn't explain how they were going to do things differently in the future to prevent things from going wrong. Which brings me to a great post by Jeanne Bliss (issued before JetBlue had had a chance to implement any solutions). Right there, in point 2, she says:

2. Be humble. Jet Blue has the advantage that because of their service record and history, they are in good emotional stead with their customers. Admit that they made a mistake. And explain as much as possible, what happened.

So far in all the communications I've seen from JetBlue, the being humble, the admitting they made a mistake have been totally covered. But as my colleagues pointed out, they didn't explain what happened.

Which makes me think that perhaps it's easier sometimes to apologize for a mistake than to understand why exactly, it happened. I know it's certainly true at GlobalGiving--when a donor or project leader tells us that something went wrong, or we see something melting down before our eyes, we're focused on making sure that people understand we are really sorry for the inconvenience, we totally understand that they might be upset. But then comes the forensic part--how DID that happen, and how do we need to change to make sure it doesn't happen again ...? And it's usually a lot harder. But my colleagues' reaction proves you need both. After all, apologies do sound thin if you make them too often.

Time to learn from take 2 of JetBlue's mistake.

1 comment:

Elizabeth said...

Interesting. I've been accused (often?) of trying to excsue away a mistake when I offer a rationale/reason along with my apology. I've learned that sometimes just being sorry and holding myself accountable to that goes a long way.

However -- I am not a million dollars airline that cut down transportation to 9 cities :)

Portland did close -- and Scott was on one of those flights (its our flight juju). We were so incredibly pleased with jet blue's response and action. They called us 24 hours before the flight, reimbursed us immediately, got us on another flight, and gave us a travel voucher. They were in the wrong, knew it, and made it better.