Between the poor operational performance American Airlines has suffered this summer, the airline’s cramming more seats into coach and surly service, the carrier’s employees have a frequent need to apologize to customers.
Management recognizes this. They aren’t going to make coach more comfortable. Increasingly it’s getting less comfortable with less room between seats and taking out seat back entertainment screens. And there’s no immediate relief in sight for labor relations.
Since things aren’t getting better for customers, the airline is working to make employees better at apologizing. Goodness knows they’ll have practice building their skills.
Here’s a message that was recently sent out by the airline:
The Perfect Apology
Hi everyone and welcome to the August Base Managers’ update. I want to start off this month’s letter by thanking all of you for your hard work this summer. It was indeed trying at times with over 900 daily departures. You can imagine the strain it put on our operation. However, all of you stepped up to the plate and did an amazing job keeping our airline reliable, and more importantly, providing our customers with a memorable travel experience.
As we continue on our goal this sunnier to make peak days best days, it’s important we keep our company’s purpose to care for people on life’s journey, at the forefront of every customer interaction. This includes doing what we can to ensure more flights arrive on time. However, when we face IROP (irregular operations) days, maintenance delays, catering issues, customer emotions can escalate, and you may need to offer an apology to acknowledge how they feel. I know that is easier said than done. It’s difficult to find yourself apologizing all day for things that don’t go as planned or are beyond your control. So let us explore what the perfect apology is and how we can deliver It.
Apologizing is both an art and science. The true art of apologizing is understanding what makes an apology effective. It’s not just the words that are written or spoken but how those words are delivered, The art also deals with the surrounding elements that can make the apology more Relevant, effective and ultimately successful. The science is the recipe that forms the apology Itself so let us look at the ingredients necessary for the perfect apology.
An apology should always include:
• A detailed account of the situation
• Acknowledgement of the hurt or damage done as it shows you validate their feelings and the customer begins to sense you understand the situation
• Taking responsibility without making excuses for the situation is important as the apology is about them and how they feel
• Offer a form of restitution whenever possible
Now that we know the art and science behind the perfect apology, I would like to share another model that con help you care for customers and de-escalate difficult situations. I have personally used the LAST model when I flew as a flight attendant and I still use it today when I am called to de-escalate challenging situations.
Listen: Customers need and a want to vent their frustration so show you care through your body language and facial expressions. Make sure you make good eye contact and re-state the customer’s concern to make sure you understand the situation.
Apologize: Remember to apologize on behalf of the airline without making excuses or blaming others. Keep the apology simple and make it genuine. Customers do not want a half-hearted apology.
Solve: In the event of a flight disruption or cancellation, remind the customers of the several options they have to get help while inflight or on the ground.
Thank: Hopefully you have been able to listen with empathy and offer a heartfelt apology for how they feel. At this point you can simply thank them for their patience. You could also end with another apology for the challenges they faced during their travel experience.
Often a simple apology and acknowledgement on how a customer feels can have a tremendous impact. I hope the tips above will aide you in your ability to help our customers when we have not lived up to our standards. In the words of Lynn Johnston, “An apology is the super glue of life. It can repair just about anything.”
That’s it for August. Again, on behalf of your DFW leadership team we thank you for taking care of our customers and each other!
DFW Sr. Base Manager
Randy Katz, Base Manager — Terminal A