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On Kevin Smith, Southwest Airlines, and a UCE

Smith immediately took his complaint about his treatment to his fan base on Twitter

Twitter on Ulitzer

So… Kevin Smith has announced he will never fly Southwest Airlines again. And, it’s a top story on CNN. Thank goodness his important statement removed trivial stories about the economy, health care and terrorism from the front page.

(Yes…I’m being sarcastic.)

In today’s world of Tweets and IM’s, I find it fascinating how instantaneously your organization’s perception in the minds of customers and prospects can be evaluated — or, perhaps even more importantly, reevaluated.

When a flight attendant, reportedly following the instructions of the aircraft’s captain, required film director Kevin Smith to deplane a Southwest flight from Oakland to Burbank, a firestorm was created.

As you probably know, Smith immediately took his complaint about his treatment to his fan base on Twitter. Smith, you see, was deemed to be in violation of Southwest’s “passenger of size” stipulations.

It seems obvious to me that any person of fairness would have somewhat mixed emotions about the situation — we obviously do not want to see any person discriminated against…however, we also do not want our personal space (not to mention the seat that we have paid for) to be invaded without our consent. However, there is one tremendously important point for any organization to consider from this situation.

What if this exact occurrence would have happened on United Airlines? US Airways? Would the reaction of the general public have been any different? I’m going to suggest it definitely would.

Even though this was a headline story on CNN, if just about any other airline would have been involved, the story would have been much — pardon the pun — larger.

More than any other in its industry, Southwest Airlines has built a reservoir of goodwill among customers because they treat us with more respect, humor, and connectivity than any of their competitors.

Let’s face it, if United would’ve booted Smith from one of their planes, I would’ve assumed it was unjustified. When I read the story stating Southwest did it, I wondered what he did to upset them — because my experiences with Southwest have been so overwhelmingly positive.

It’s so obvious it is often overlooked — organizations are comprised of individuals, and all individuals make mistakes. Perhaps what happened here was, plain and simple, just a mistake. (Compounded by someone from Hollywood seeking the media spotlight.)

In an earlier book, I discussed a research paper that examined the importance of the customer’s perception of your organization upon their evaluation of your mistakes.

When a major car manufacturer had a recall because of faulty door locks, those with a negative perception of the company tended to say, “Well, if the locks are bad, what ELSE is wrong with this lemon?” Those with a positive perception made statements like, “No problem. After all, it’s only a lock.” And, guess which group tended to become repeat customers?

A major reason for creating an Ultimate Customer Experience ™ with every customer is because a UCE builds a reservoir of goodwill upon which you can draw when someone in your organization — or maybe even you — makes a mistake.

Have you made a deposit in your reservoir today?

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More Stories By Scott McKain

Scott McKain is a business leader, bestselling author, and Hall of Fame professional speaker.
Scott's latest book, "The Collapse of Distinction: Stand Out and Move Up While Your Competition Fails" reached the #1 spot on Amazon.com list of Customer Service Bestsellers! He is the author of two #1 additional business bestsellers (Amazon.com & 800-CEO-READ): "What Customers REALLY Want" (currently available in trade paperback) and "ALL Business is Show Business."
He is the Co-founder and Principal of The Value Added Institute, a think-tank that examines the role of the customer experience in creating significant advances in the level of client loyalty, and has appeared on multiple occasions as a commentator and analyst on FOX News Channel. His platform presentations have run the gamut from the White House lawn with the President in the audience carried live on CNN and NBC's "Today" show...to a remote outpost near the Amazon...all 50 states, seven Canadian provinces...and from Singapore to Sweden...Mexico to Morocco.
An inductee into the Professional Speakers Hall of Fame, he is also a member of "Speakers Roundtable" -- an elite, invitation-only group of twenty of the world's top business speakers.

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