American Airlines: Passengers Are Happier When We Apologize For Screw-Ups Than When Things Go As Planned

Think about the all the flights you’ve taken in your life. Which ones are most memorable — The ones where you took off on time and landed as scheduled, or the ones where you slept at the gate while waiting 10 hours before having to make an unscheduled pit stop in Ireland for refueling? And according to an executive at American Airlines, customers are happier when a bad situation ends well than they are when things go as planned.

In a Chicago Tribune story about the professional apologizers hired by airlines like American and Southwest, the AA exec explains that a well-worded “my bad” (which probably includes some sort of voucher) has a remarkable effect on passengers:

We know how our customers score us on a routine flight, and we also know how they score us when we handle a delay situation very poorly or very well… When we handle a delay situation well, they score us about 14 to 16 points higher than they do for just a regular old on-time flight.

Southwest’s CEO also stresses the personal impact of reaching out to customers to apologize when things go poorly.

“How many of those (who received the apologies) are customers who came back and said, ‘You know, Southwest really treated me right in that one instance,'” he explains. “You just don’t know how those touch points are going to affect customers and what impact it might have on our future business with them.”

If an airline sends you an apology after a bad experience, how far does that go to regain your trust? And what’s more important — the sincerity of the apology or the size/value of any compensation (voucher, miles, etc.) that might be included?

Airlines employ professional apologizers [Chicago Tribune]