Rome Wasn’t Built — Or Tore Down — In A Day: Why JetBlue Will Do Just Fine

Steve Johnson at (a great site) recently wrote:

JetBlue may never recover from the PR nightmare that they’ve created. Seth’s suggestion (to give each person affected 50 free round trip tickets) may be the only chance for JetBlue… and for the entire industry.”

May never recover? Nonsense. JetBlue has done a great job of differentiating its customer experience from the rest of the industry. One bad day (even one really bad day) isn’t going to wipe that out.

Here’s why:

1) Few of us were affected. The JetBlue fiasco — while splattered all over the press and spread all over the blogosphere — didn’t directly effect that many JetBlue customers. I’m sure that many customers like myself, who weren’t impacted, have no plans to stop using the airline. The lesson from The Stories Loyal Customers Tell: Loyalty is most impacted by a customer’s own experience — not advertising, or even the stories that other customers tell.

2) It’s all relative. No doubt that what JetBlue put its customers through that day was really bad. But thanks to the fact that the airline industry has produced numerous stories like this, many airline passengers who weren’t impacted that day will chalk this up to the overall problems that the industry has.

3) Price drives a lot of decisions. The next time you have to fly, and JetBlue can fly you where you have to go for hundreds of dollars less than another airline, will you really choose some other airline because of what happened on Valentine’s Day?

4) We have short memories. I had more I wanted to say about this point, but I forgot what it was.

5) The apology was sincere. This is the most important point. Many corporate apologies appear insincere, before its back to business as usual (example: the bedbug letter). This one seemed different. Maybe Neeleman was just acting, but it’s the perception that counts. We’re forgiving people — even us Crankys — especially when we perceive actions to be sincere (I’ll be writing more about the power of sincerity in the near future).

In the end, the Passenger Bill of Rights was a nice gesture, but probably not even needed. I don’t want to be compensated for the airlines’ mistakes — I want them to NOT MAKE THE MISTAKE IN THE FIRST PLACE. After all, it’s going to be a hassle to submit the paperwork to get my $25 credit, and then a hassle to account for it on my expense report, etc.

I’m not saying that JetBlue shouldn’t do something for the people impacted. But the firm’s PR (and future business) problem is nowhere near as bad as some in the blogosphere make it out to be.

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