To say that the airline industry in America is going through a bit of a PR rough patch at the moment would be an understatement. In the past few weeks major carriers like United, American, and Delta have all seen incidents aboard their planes lead to backlash. Sadly Spirit customers are currently having issues even getting on a plane. This string of headlines recently led USA Today writer Rhonda Abrams to pen a piece all about how small businesses can avoid some of the same troubles the big airlines are currently facing. Inspired by that, here are a few takeaways from the airline debacle and how entrepreneurs can do better for their customers.
Price isn’t everything — offer a better experience
Surely price plays a major role in a consumer’s decision to buy but it’s far from the only factor. In fact, in many cases, customers turn to small businesses in search of more personal service and expert advice. Additionally small businesses often have the ability to offer experiences and products that may be too niche for the big guys to bother with. So instead of worrying solely about price (which it may prove hard to compete on), ensure that you’re focusing on what makes your business unique and building a product that’s worth a little extra cash.
Customer recovery is essential
No one is perfect and, likewise, neither is any small business. Mistakes will happen and in many cases these could affect a customer’s experience negatively. This is where guest recovery comes into play.
When it comes to customer recovery, the more proactive you can be, the better. For example, a diner at a restaurant may be frustrated by their extended wait but then be won over when the manager apologizes (a key step in winning a customer back) and offers to comp their appetizers/dessert. Obviously you shouldn’t give away the farm to please an unreasonable customer, but taking responsibility for your business’s failures and trying to make things right will go a long way — even if that’s something the airlines seem to have let fall by the wayside.
Be easy to reach and make it simple to purchase
Another advantage of being a small business is that people feel like they can approach you with questions or concerns, and that’s the way it should be! Whether in person, by phone, or via social media, your business must make it easy for customers and potential customers to reach out to you. If you don’t already, make customer engagement a priority in your social media strategy (hint: this could also help with guest recovery even after they’ve left your location) — just be sure to avoid the canned responses that many airlines offer and most customers hate.
In a similar vein, it’s always important that you give those in the market to buy the opportunity to do so. This includes having a mobile-optimized site with an easy to use checkout flow. Admittedly this is one area where major airlines have improved in recent years but there’s still a long way to go.
While now may be a bad time to be in the airline industry (or running a carrier’s Twitter account), their recent woes can be a teachable moment for entrepreneurs in all fields. The overall lesson boils down to this: customers are key. It used to be said that, when a customer has a bad experience, they tell 10 friends who tell 10 friends, etc. Now a video or tweet about their interaction can reach millions in a matter of minutes. That’s why small business should take a closer look at how they can give guests the best experience possible (even if it costs a little extra), how they can win back customers they may have wronged, and how they can make themselves more available to those with questions or concerns. By doing that, your small business is sure to soar.