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Innovation Insights by Stephen Shapiro

Readers of this blog know that I am not a huge fan of failure. I think it is overrated and should be minimized. Instead, I like to view innovation through the lens of experimentation.

But sometimes a failure in execution can be a way to impress customers. I wrote about some examples of bad situations turning into great customer experiences a while back that might be of interest to you.

But now, companies are turning more and more to social media for their customer service. So when I had an issue, I decided to give it a try.

On Delta.com I paid extra for a Comfort+ seat. It has more legroom and lets you board early. I saw that there were some desirable seats still available (in addition to a number of middle seats). So I paid for the upgrade and went to book my seat. But the system wouldn’t let me choose a seat and was told that I would be assigned one at the gate before takeoff.

I was not happy. I did not pay extra to end up in a middle seat. So I tweeted about it.

Within minutes I get a tweet back from Delta:

And after sending them my confirmation number via DM, I was assigned a wonderful exit row, aisle seat:

They took (what I assume to be) a system failure and turned it into a customer satisfaction success story. Knowing that I can get this level of service from them is very encouraging and makes me want to fly them even more.

Consider how other airlines have handled some recent (albeit much bigger) issues via social media: United leggings fiasco and American’s wheelchair debacle. Neither of these resulted in building fans for their airlines. They could have handled these situations differently and come out looking good (or at least not as bad as they do).

How can you turn each negative situation into a chance to create a positive image in the eyes of others?

P.S. Most of my experiences are not this positive. Just yesterday I had a terrible experience with a major timeshare company. Their phone support was atrocious and the Twitter support has (as of now) been non-existent. 

P.P.S. Only a few days after writing this, the king of all failures was delivered by United when they dragged a Doctor off the airplane. Afterwards, United did nothing to improve their position with their customers. YIKES!

  1. Hi Stephen, I think many of us can relate to your airline experience. And yeah, I must agree that when something that seems bad turns out good, it makes us feel good. In my case for example, I was asked by a restaurant manager if I liked their food and I honestly pointed out the things I didn’t like. It turned out that I was given a discount and they promised that they will be improving their food. So, instead of not going back there again because of their food, I’d definitely go back their because they are willing to improve and are open for suggestions.

    • Stephen Shapiro says:

      It is amazing how small changes in the way a company relates to its customers can impact satisfaction. Thanks for commenting!

  2. marvidigile says:

    Your observation is correct especially with the United Airlines fiasco, most companies learned their lesson pretty well. Customer experience is now the new marketing and social media is a very accessible channel. Customers today know what they want and they’re not afraid to vent their dissatisfaction over Facebook and Twitter.

    Most organisations also built their own alerts whenever someone mentions them online. It’s a must for them to address those rants immediately and handle them with grace under pressure.

  3. Fail often and fail small is fast becoming one of the mantras of modern business.
    As a company who invest heavily in prototyping I’ve seen with my own eyes that the minimum viable product model actually saves money in the long term.

    It’s completely changed the way we approach new design work.

    • Stephen Shapiro says:

      I prefer the concept of experimentation over failing fast, small, cheap…or whatever words you want to use. Experiments are only considered a failure if you don’t accurately prove or disprove a hypothesis. Disproving a hypothesis is a huge success from my perspective. Thanks for your comment!

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