Two marketing lessons learned from a flight cancellation

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My experience with Alaska Airlines (@AlaskaAir) had always been positive until March 14th, due to a flight cancellation. I wrote a blog entitled: “A letter to @AlaskaAir: My best and worst flight experience” in which I shared several of my ideas about areas that the airline must improve:

Flight cancellation communications handbook:  A step-by-step guide to tell staff what to do when a flight is cancelled. If there is one, please ensure that everyone fully understands the protocols on what to do and how to do it.

Voucher handling process: It took at least 10 minutes to key in customer information to produce a hotel and meal voucher. To increase efficiency and shorten customer wait time, it is essential to reevaluate the voucher key-in process.

Hotel communications: The hotel at which we were placed should have been informed that we were coming, but the execution on transportation was poor.

Flight schedule change:  A 6:15 a.m. flight was rescheduled to 9 a.m. Why weren’t all the passengers that had been booked on the 6:15 a.m. flight informed of the schedule change as soon as it was made? Sending texts or phone alerts should be part of a flight schedule change.

Here are my marketing take-aways:

Crisis management is another form of customer service

I’ve come to realize that the way a company manages a crisis is a litmus test of its commitment to customer service. Most employees, including myself, know the routine of our jobs. We know our daily tasks. Are we prepared for ad-hoc situations? Does the company have any guidance or processes? As employees, are we familiar with the processes and protocols?

Customer service is part of the branding experience

The brand promise is not only owned by the marketing department. None of the suggestions I made above are owned by marketing, but somehow, it's part of the branding experience.  The marketing team needs to understand the customer-facing processes to help the company differentiate itself and articulate its brand promise.     

As today’s marketing professionals, our jobs are not getting easier. We not only have to keep up with ever-changing marketing channels and technology, but somehow work with the rest of our enterprise to present an overall customer experience that reflects the essence of our brands.

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