JetBlue’s CX Tipping Point


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Thanks to social media, today’s consumers have turned themselves into real-time reporters, split-second critics and instant pundits, leaving brands in a daily state of flux.

After all, imagine managing your own life if every personal interaction that you had was fair game for online commentary and opinion. Doesn’t sound like very much fun, does it? But now imagine if your life also involved interacting with upwards of two million people every day?

That’s the approximate number of individuals that engage with JetBlue on a daily basis, both during flights and online through their computers and mobile devices.

With an audience that enormous, you’re bound to piss someone off. And what if that person is a customer that considers himself a self-proclaimed Internet “celebrity” looking to stir things up?

Does that mean that the customer is still always right?

JetBlue customer Matthew Lush recently found out the hard way that the answer is no. The customer isn’t always right. And, in the case of Mr. Lush there’s nothing wrong about that.

Mr. Lush, you see, was unhappy that JetBlue charged him a change fee for his non-refundable low fare. Even though a $150 change fee was standard with his ticket, JetBlue graciously offered Mr. Lush a discount of $50. But that wasn’t enough for him, so he took to Twitter to launch a boycott and campaign against the airline.

Sample Tweet on JetBlue
Sample Tweet on JetBlue
What followed was a social media frenzy of profanity and comments that even included violent statements being made against the specific JetBlue agent who tried to help Mr. Lush and reduced his change fee.

Now, whether such tweets in question were in jest – and some clearly were – there still should be a tipping point for a company where enough is simply enough. JetBlue reached this tipping point with Mr. Lush, and after company representatives interviewed him at his departure gate before his flight they decided to ban him from boarding the plane.

@MatthewLush Tweet on #JetBlue
@MatthewLush Tweet on #JetBlue
Was Mr. Lush an actual threat to the flight? Not in the sense of being a potential terrorist, but very much so in that he was a threat to the customer experience of every other paying JetBlue passenger on the flight.

To that end, JetBlue corporate communications manager Morgan Johnston explained about Mr. Lush, “we would never ban someone for their tweets,” before adding that “the security team wanted to assess if this situation had the potential to escalate in altitude.”

In other words, they determined that Mr. Lush could be a problem once the flight was airborne. And using this situation as an example, I’m afraid it’s clear that the customer simply can’t always be right.

Because, not only does JetBlue have the right to ban individuals from their planes, the company also must take into account the safety and comfort of every single passenger on every single plane, every single day. Mr. Lush is just one of many JetBlue customers, no matter how important he might consider himself to be online.

As someone who has flown around the world this year, I’ve experienced the hassles of long lines, TSA body scans, flight delays and more. Flying isn’t very glamorous, and having to share an aircraft with someone who has an agenda and poses as distraction to the flight crew is my own tipping point.

JetBlue made the right call by telling their customers that enough is indeed enough and you aren’t always right.

Brian Walker, CEO
Brian Walker is the Chief Executive Officer of AE Marketing Group and host of the award-winning Brand Lab Series™ Podcast with today’s most innovative brands, including Bosch, Deloitte, IBM, RXBAR®, Accenture, and P&G.Recognized by Inc., Forbes, Branding Magazine, Ad Age, The American Marketing Association. Modern Healthcare, and more, Brian helps executives build brands beyond traditional advertising to improve customer experience, product development, and revenue.


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