Episode 60 of Landscape Digital Show reveals customer care marketing lessons in leadership, communication, and training from an actual case study.
The best marketing for any business is not what its media says, but the actions the business takes, especially when circumstances are less than optimal.
To perform in these clutch situations – and let’s face it, everything in life is a performance, requires a customer care plan.
This means that your people need to be trained for every conceivable circumstance they may encounter. One of the best ways to prepare is to take situations that you experience or learn about and break them down into practical lessons that become part of your regular training.
That’s what we’re going to do today as we explore a situation that ignited the social and traditional media channels around the globe last week.
Of course, I’m talking about the incident involving one of the major airlines in which a passenger was “re-accommodated” with the use of excessive force. (Google that term for the backstory).
This situation and others like them are case-studies that can prove invaluable for preparing your business to avoid or skillfully manage crisis situations like them with leadership, communication, and training.
Customer Care Starts with Leadership
Many people have called for the firing of the airline CEO.
If you are the owner of your landscaping business, you know what that spotlight feels like when operations do not go as planned. Unlike the airline CEO, I hope that you will:
a. Acknowledge the situation and calmly take responsibility for it.
b. Get together with your team and study it to learn what went wrong and how it can be avoided in the future.
c. Fix it for this customer and train your team so that it never happens again.
I’m confident you already knew this. But let’s consider taking this a step further with your marketing.
As you resolve difficult situations consider making them teaching moments that are shared with all of your customers.
Depending on your community, they will probably find out on their own through Angie’s List, Yelp, or day-to-day word of mouth. If you take the lead and risk being vulnerable, you can make this a teaching moment that shows your company’s commitment to making things right.
Everybody hates rework, especially customers. So, the next time you have to incur the warranty expense of replacing expensive trees, use your media to share a lesson on watering or whatever went wrong to help other customers avoid a similar event with their property.
If the problem was something underground, have a conversation about soil types and amendments. You can try to protect your business with contract language, and should, but a better approach is to support it with teaching examples.
Customer Care Requires Proactive Communication
A friend of mine wrote an article last week about her true experience with another airline that also involved a challenging situation. It turned out to be memorable for all of the right reasons because the pilot proactively communicated with the passengers, every step of the way.
This included a face-to-face explanation at the gate about the details of a mechanical problem, and then another, and then a gate change that required a manual rebooking procedure, and so on.
You get the picture. People were inconvenienced, they were delayed, and they were less than delighted with the experience. But everything worked out fairly well because they were communicated with in an open, honest, and direct way.
Contrast that with the major airline and how it handled their challenges. There was blaming, forced evacuation of a passenger that required hospitalization, and the curious absence of involvement from the airline staff that deferred to outside security personnel.
Here’s something to consider that’s vitally important.
You are not the CEO of a major company. Therefore, you cannot call a press conference on one of the major networks to apologize or explain. You need to proactively communicate to your networks to ensure you will have an attentive audience for handling crisis situations or any other.
Of all of the communication networks a business can have, email is the most important because it’s the most personal.
Email is personal if it’s consistently used to encourage a dialogue. Use it to inform customers about anything that aligns their relationship with your business, such as the personal side of team members they work with every day.
For this to work, you have to show up on a regular schedule. Think of it as making a weekly or monthly appointment for enhancing customer care.
Training Makes Customer Care Responsive
If you expect your team to perform at the highest level they need to know you will do your job, and that’s to use your industry leadership and experience to develop systems that ensure the right things get done right.
In our major airline example, there has been some interesting social media commentary. One person suggested the staff was trained to get airplanes to destinations on time when in fact they should be trained to get passengers to destinations on time.
If you think about it, when you see airline industry rankings it’s usually about flights arriving on time. Have you ever seen a ranking until recently about the number of passengers that get bumped?
Customer care is really one outcome of the collective customer experience.
Everything matters, from departing and arriving on time, and everything in between.
Isn’t that what your landscape customers want, projects completed on-time, professional care, and working with great people that take the time to answer the many questions that people will always have?
Training makes it all come together.
Update: After this was published the CEO of the airline made some strong moves and released an email to its customers detailing those actions. You can get the full update here.
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Call to Action
The call to action for this episode is to sit down with your team and discuss this major airline fiasco. Ask what they think should have happened, and what they would do about it now if they were the CEO of that company.
Make this a regular training practice with mainstream and landscaping industry examples that you encounter.
In fact, if you have one to share I’d love to hear it. Without identifying any specific company, leave a comment below and maybe we can talk about it on a future episode.