(the filled JFK terminal yesterday)
So I thought instead of just complaining about all the things that went wrong the last few days for Jetblue, I thought I could maybe offer some solutions from my perspective. Now I can’t even imagine the complexity of their situation, and I know they are doing the best they can, but there are some things that I think they could’ve done to make the situation better.
1.) A flight status that means something: As I mentioned yesterday they could have made me and others a lot more tolerant of their problems if they had simply been honest with the flight status system. My flight consistently was marked as “on time” yesterday morning, so I went to JFK only to walk into what seemed more like Thunderdome than JFK airport. It wasn’t until the boarding time of my flight that it was finally announced we were on a 3 hour delay. Then 2 hours later, it was cancelled. Jetblue, your customers tend to be fairly tech savvy (although I’ll admit a large % of people still avoid the automated check in machines like the plague…That has to be frustrating). Take advantage of this…deliver information to them electronically. Keep your flight status on your website updated, maybe even offer text message or phone call alerts. Save my time and minimize my inconvenience, and I’ll appreciate you even in your worst moments (like yesterday).
2.) Communicate with customers, Proactively…. I’m a trueblue member, and I would imagine that most of your flyers are. This means you have my email address, my phone number, and even my address. Use this. Send me an email and/or a text message when my flight is delayed or cancelled. I called your phone number yesterday all day only to hear an automated voice telling me you can’t take my call at this time. This annoys me greatly. I get upset and frustrated that I may end up paying for a flight that didn’t get me anywhere but a crappy lunch at “mex and the city,” at JFK. You know my number, send me an email that tells me what I can do about my canceled flight and give me the option to be CALLED when someone is available. If I want to be called, all I have to do is click a link and select either my phone number with my trueblue account OR enter a new number to be reached…then you call me. From a technology standpoint this is very easy to implement, and quite frankly it gets you incredible customer satisfaction for your buck. It looks like you really care enough to reach out to your customers because you are calling them, when in reality it’s all automated to the point that your customer service reps can’t tell the difference. When it’s your problem you should work to communicate with customers, not the other way around.
3.) Don’t make people wait in the plane….I know there’s some reason for this, maybe you can’t get in line for takeoff without leaving the gate, but this is never a good idea. I know that other airlines are just as guilty of this, but it doesn’t make it right. Take a stand, no USE this. Say you’ll never let customers wait on a plane for more than 3 hours before takeoff regardless of conditions. Jetblue delays are definitely more tolerable than other airlines simply because of the TV in each seat, but that only goes so far. It only takes one long, painful wait to erase all the good you’ve done for that passenger in the past.
4.) Say what you can do, and do it…There’s nothing worse than sitting down in a chaotic airport with absolutely no idea what’s going on, and no reliable place to get information from. In situations like these, someone needs to choose a direction, tell everyone what it is, and stick with it. It’s way too annoying and costly to go with the “wait and see,” approach in an emergency. They were aware my flight wasn’t going to be on time 3 hours prior to telling me, and probably knew they wouldn’t even be able to get it off at all yesterday. So instead of hoping for it, just shut it down. Tell me it’s cancelled way ahead of time. Look at your other unanswered questions and answer them. There’s no time for right or wrong, only action and direction can help at that time. It’s much better to have a direction and make everyone aware of it, than to hope it all works out. Even if it’s not what most people wanted, at least you free them from the pain of being in limbo.
I still am a big Jetblue fan and really admire and believe in their founder and CEO David Neeleman (loved his book), and I realize the weather will always cause flight delays and cancellations, but there are so many things you can do to make life better for the stranded passengers. Frustrations and delays are inevitable and uncontrollable, but how you deal with them can make or break you. The cost of fixing and satisfying currently inconvenienced customers is only a fraction of the cost of trying to win them back.