Thursday, February 22, 2007

JetBlue: Failure in Competence:Benevolence

JetBlue, a brand that I do, in fact, like, screwed up pretty bad last week. Essentially, it seems, the whole system just completely and totally unraveled, leaving passengers in planes, in line, and on hold. What a mess.

The work of apologizing has begun, using the Internet as a primary vehicle. You may have received an email as well, if you've ever flied them. Here are a few excerpts:
We are sorry and embarrassed. But most of all, we are deeply sorry.

The storm disrupted the movement of aircraft, and, more importantly, disrupted the movement of JetBlue's pilot and inflight crewmembers who were depending on those planes to get them to the airports where they were scheduled to serve you.

Words cannot express how truly sorry we are for the anxiety, frustration and inconvenience that we caused. This is especially saddening because JetBlue was founded on the promise of bringing humanity back to air travel and making the experience of flying happier and easier for everyone who chooses to fly with us. We know we failed to deliver on this promise last week.
The red text is my addition. This is a good lesson, here, and it illustrates a key point about what happens when a company blows it. They need to apologize, yes. But they also need to manage the perception of their competence and their benevolence. Consumers (humans) forgive lapses in competence. They do not forgive lapses in benevolence.

That's what JetBlue is doing. They are admitting (in a sense) that they were incapable of handling the disruption to their system. But, more importantly, they re-iterated the benevolence that is built into their brand and their product. That's why it is so critical in this memo to remind people about JetBlue's whole purpose: "bringing humanity back to air travel". That's key. They are built around giving people great experiences. They can't possibly lose that, and in this apology, you can see that they are re-affirming that, far more than they are making promises about upgrading their systems.
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