Don’t Treat Your Customers Like Mushrooms

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“They treat me like a mushroom,” as the old joke goes. “They keep me in the dark and feed me ****.”

Nobody likes being treated like a mushroom, but some companies do that to their customers anyway. This week Spirit Airlines learned why this might not be a great idea.

Spirit, for those not familiar with the company, is the low-cost airline which has elevated poor customer experience to part of its brand image. In an industry where calibrated misery is an art form, this is saying something.

Over the past week, Spirit has been plagued with delays and cancelations. Customers didn’t always buy the “bad weather” explanations offered by the gate agents. And let’s face it, “weather” doesn’t sound like a credible reason for a flight to be canceled when the plane is at the gate and both the departure and arrival airports are clear.

But Spirit makes it very difficult to talk to anyone at the company, and doesn’t monitor social media (all part of that low-cost brand!). In the absence of any official word from the airline, rumors started to spread that there was some sort of pilot strike going on. Even when contacted by the media, at first Spirit didn’t respond, leading some outlets to publish articles about the rumored labor action. “Pilot strike” is probably second only to “maintenance problems” on the list of things which will make passengers choose a different airline.

I have to think that this article (even when updated several hours later when Spirit finally gave an official explanation for the delays) did substantial damage to Spirit’s bottom line. It creates the impression that the company doesn’t care about its passengers even when stranding them far from home, and that the airline won’t make an effort to keep customers informed when the schedule is becoming massively disrupted.

Surely it would have been cheaper just to communicate clearly in the first place.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peter Leppik
Peter U. Leppik is president and CEO of Vocalabs. He founded Vocal Laboratories Inc. in 2001 to apply scientific principles of data collection and analysis to the problem of improving customer service. Leppik has led efforts to measure, compare and publish customer service quality through third party, independent research. At Vocalabs, Leppik has assembled a team of professionals with deep expertise in survey methodology, data communications and data visualization to provide clients with best-in-class tools for improving customer service through real-time customer feedback.

1 COMMENT

  1. Peter, your article about Spirits’ lack of communication is an interesting one, and I think representative of many “low-cost providers.”

    I have had similar dismal customer service experiences (or, shall we call them “non-experiences?”) with Wal Mart, and after analyzing the situation, concluded that low-cost providers channel all of their resources into keeping costs and pricing low. And since they likely view customer service as a cost center, they feel that any investment in better customer service is an investment that can’t be made in keeping costs and prices low.

    Your thoughts??

    Jim Watson
    Portland, Maine
    http://www.mylifeasacustomer.com

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