What happens to customer experience when things go drastically wrong? I think many organisations would like to think that they provide a good experience, but that may not be the case. In 1978-9, the “Winter of Discontent” was a phrase used commonly in the press as strikes swept across the country. Now, over 30 years later, customers who need a flight, a train, to post a letter or use a port, have been facing increasing unrest. At Easter, this looks set to continue, with national strikes on transport and public services looking ever more likely. So where does the customer fit in all of this?
Companies that are subject to strikes or major disruptions often talk about how important customers are to them, but perhaps there is more that can be done to keep up that promise. As bizarre as it sounds, could they even treat it as an opportunity? By ensuring that the rigour applied to customer focus during normal times is applied even more enthusiastically during extreme disruption, they will aim to ensure that the impact on relationships with customers is as minimal as possible. Both British Airways and Toyota have recently had to deal with the huge disruption of strikes and product recalls, and while disasters, delays and (arguably) strikes are unavoidable, they are not unforeseeable. If an organisation uses careful segmentation and customer journeys to understand the outside-in view of the service they provide when things go wrong, they will be able to preserve their reputation as a customer-focused organisation. For example, if BA can fully understand the criticality of passenger journeys on some routes, they can more effectively provide options, such as alternative dates, flights with alternative airlines, or even free use of videoconferencing facilities so that impacted meetings can go ahead as planned. Judging from comments and blogs, customers are not willing to tolerate severe disruption. For BA, at least, how they deal with their customers during this tough period may determine whether many of them ever fly with the airline again. How have your experiences been with BA or Toyota? Have you experienced significant disruption and how did the organisation react? We’d been interested in hearing your views.