By Alex Smith

In the past two months, the airline industry has come under intense scrutiny from its customers, the public, and even Congress for how it has handled customer-service issues. Every time one of these major events has occurred, they generally are plastered all over the evening news and become the butt of late-night television jokes. While some instances were more severe than others, many airlines seriously dropped the ball and were reactive rather than proactive. So what can we learn from all of this?

  1. Customer Service Program. By having a proactive customer service and engagement program, an organization will be better equipped to handle any customer situation. Whether it’s empowering employees to make a wrong into a right or providing customer service training, being proactive will help mitigate the potential for a public relations nightmare.
  2. The Headline Test. Ask yourself, “Does the action I’m taking have the potential to end up in tomorrow morning’s paper?” If you are in a tough situation, take a deep breath and slow down. Odds are you will better serve your customer and organization by doing so.
  3. Take Ownership. Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, two former U.S. Navy SEALS, recently published Extreme Ownership. Willink describes a time when an operation went awry and he took ownership for the mistakes that occurred. While at the time, he thought it would end his naval career, it had the opposite effect: He gained respect and buy-in from his command and subordinates. Even if the smallest poor customer experience occurs, take ownership of the situation and make it right. Not only will you keep a customer, you will foster an environment of accountability and respect.

Alex Smith is operations program supervisor with the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport Authority.