Listen To Customer Complaints: Flight Attendants and Formatting

This is it – the inaugural post on the Mirasee blog. I’m pretty excited!

There are two important things that I want to share with you in this post. The first is a valuable business lesson about promotion fixes that I learned on a recent trip (I’m actually writing this post on the plane heading home, though it might be a few days before I actually post it on the blog), and the second is about how this blog is going to work going forward.

So let’s start with the lesson. Or rather, the back-story to the lesson.
So, a week ago, after a short flight from Montreal to Philadelphia (which is apparently the hub for US Airways), I was sitting in my seat on a plane bound for Dublin, waiting for takeoff. Trying to be productive with my time, I was doing some preparatory reading about the client.

As part of the takeoff process, at one point the cabin lights were switched off, plunging us all into darkness (it was already dark outside). I turn to my armrest to switch on my reading light, except that I can’t see any of the buttons. My first thought was to use my cell phone for some light, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to switch it on while the plane was taking off.

This was a product problem! Not being able to think of anything else, I tried to feel out the panel and find the button that felt most like it might turn on a light, and ended up pressing the button that calls the flight attendant – which I knew because it lights up after you press it, but not before. A cancel button lit up along with it, which I promptly pressed, feeling a little embarrassed.

A moment later, the cabin lights switch back on, and the captain starts lecturing us through the announcement system, sounding annoyed. “Okay, let’s all press the call attendant button and get it out of our system.” Apparently, I wasn’t the only one to have this particular product problem.

I took advantage of the lit cabin to find my reading light button, press it, and make a mental note of its location (it’s the first button on the panel, right after the big protruding button that reclines your seat – at least on a Boeing 767).

Here’s the thing: we weren’t trying to be difficult. All we wanted to do was find the reading light, which was not labeled in any way that would allow us to find it in the dark – which is the only time we’d need it! This is clearly a design flaw (which is the definition of a product problem) – the kind that the captain would never see, but that is super-obvious to us passengers, and that we’d happily explain if he had bothered to ask “why”.

Here comes the valuable lesson for business…

Listening to Your Customer Complaints Can Show You Promotion Fixes!

We all have customers that will occasionally do something that annoys us. We, as business owners, are faced with the question of how to respond. Sometimes we just grit our teeth and mutter something under our breath – out of earshot, of course. Sometimes we go so far as to create whole new processes to account for our customers’ annoying behaviors.

But how often do we ask the customers why they do it? Not enough.

There’s a good reason for this. We’re annoyed by whatever it is that the customer is doing, and in the back of our minds we think that if the customer were to be completely honest in answering the question of why they do that, we think the answer would be something like, “Because I’m a stupid, incompetent ass, that’s why.”

But come on.  We might think that (just a little) when we’re feeling our most annoyed, but we know that our customers aren’t any of those things. If they’re doing something, there’s probably a good reason for it, and you can get a lot out of a diplomatic question like “You know, I’ve noticed that you’re doing ABC, which surprised me, because I thought that XYZ would be the more natural response. Am I missing something?”

The answer to this question will give you options – the captain, for example, could have gone back to Boeing and asked them to install a light on every armrest (an expensive product fix), or he just could have made an announcement before switching off the cabin lights (a zero-cost promotion fix).

Asking why can help you improve your customer experience, build your relationship with the customer by showing that you care and are receptive to suggestions, and eliminate some frustration. (The captain must have to make that announcement on every night-time flight!)

Here’s the Part Where You Weigh In…

In setting up the blog, Peter and I had initially decided that the blog posts that we would be writing for you would be like short articles about marketing, each coming with a spiffy explanatory video (kind of like the slideshow training videos that you’ll get if you sign up to our free video course).

Then the captain made that announcement, and I thought it would make a great post. The next day, in the hotel, there was another great example of a marketing lesson (which I’ll write about soon, and probably post a few days after this first post goes up).

Which raised the question of format. Do we only do the article + video posts? Do we add in some posts about interesting things that we want to share, as they come up? We’re asking you now, because we want to avoid creating a product problem from day one!

We’re going to try a bit of everything to see what you like best, but we’d appreciate it if you would weigh in and leave a comment telling us what you like and what you don’t like – this blog is for you, after all!