When the Spirit Moves You
No doubt you have seen the rather public missteps and head-shaking arrogance from Spirit Airlines over the last few weeks regarding a terminally ill patient and his quest for a refund. After being strongly and medically cautioned not to fly, this Spirit customer was merely looking for a refund or ticket transfer to his child to restitute his grave situation.
Unfortunately, Marie Antoinette, thinly disguised as the CEO of Spirit, had other ideas. Putting on our CRM hats as you watch this train wreck unfold, you can re-headline this story as, “How to Learn from the Spirit Airlines’ Fiasco on How Not to Let Social Media and Angry Customers Answer for You.”
Rule #1 – We screw up; customers, brands, retailers. We all have our blind spots, but it is in how we recover that customers remember and react to.
Rule #2 – The customer is always right. Yes your mileage may vary but in the end, the customer is always right or rue the day you tell them otherwise.
Rule #3 – Social media is your best friend and your biggest adversary, when in doubt, see Rule #1 and #2.
Customer Relationship Management, regardless of how awesome your data base is or how fast your back-end email push provider is or how encompassing your analytics dashboard may be, comes down to how you manage in “Miss and Recovery.” Clearly, the Spirit Airlines public self-destruction and senility to this golden rule shows its ugly head in Social Media; the “Boycott Spirit Airlines” Facebook page has nearly 41,000 likes where the Spirit Airlines actual Facebook page has less than 1,000 likes. (This does not include “I Hate Sprit Airlines” and “Spirit Airlines Suck” pages, for the record.)
If you look at the Spirit Airlines website, you see nothing resembling a mea culpa unless you look way over on the Investor Relations section for a short, PR-worthy worded pseudo-apology and donation self-pat on the back. Have they answered their tidal-wave of critics with email or on social media? No – what do customers (and potential customers) remember?
That was the original answer to the customer inquiry about a refund; a simple “No” heard round the world. Was the company right to enforce its own policy about no refunds and non-transferable tickets? Of course it was. Should it have possibly handled it a little more delicately or made an exception in a lose-lose situation for both the customer and their bottom line? Of course it should have. Was the refusal to acquiesce the less-than-$200 refund worth the avalanche of grief it is wading through now? It already answered that question: “No.”
Watching the bottom line may win you a pat on the back from your CFO but alienating possibly thousands (or millions) of customers who will instead turn their back when you misstep is critical to your entire bottom line. No question Spirit will need a massive PR overhaul to recover from this dysfunction-junction function. But for those of us watching from the sidelines we recommend taking furious notes on what not to do -- and add that to your CRM playbook.
Your customer interactions, from first contact (“first touch”) all the way to follow through after conversion or opt-in should be treated like a rare, precious flower; cultivate it, care for it and cherish it. You may not always water it or sit by it daily, but neglect and disregard for its gift and sheer marvel in your world will net you nothing but anguish and frustration when it withers, dies and blooms elsewhere.
Consider your Spirit “moved.”