Surprise and delight EVERYONE, customer or not!

By: Mike Gorun

What would you do if a customer was injured at your dealership and you were at fault? I don’t mean serious injury or anything like that. Perhaps just a bump or scrape? Most businesses would apologize or, at the very least acknowledge the mishap to the customer. Perhaps send some flowers or a gift card. You certainly wouldn’t want to ignore it, right?

Well, that’s what happened to an American Airlines customer who was injured when an unsecured drink cart barreled down the aisle and crashed into the passenger. No apology from the airlines was ever received (although it is a tad hard to believe that the stewardesses didn’t at least apologize). The customer wasn’t trying to shake down the airlines at all. He just thought that an apology phone call or card would be an appropriate response for American Airlines to make to a customer injured on one of their flights. Even if only for the sake of customer retention.

The passenger did receive flowers and an apology… but not from American Airlines. The geniuses over at Virgin Atlantic heard of the incident and sent the passenger flowers along with a card that read:

“We might not be who you expected these to be from, but we heard what happened and everyone at Virgin Atlantic wishes you a speedy recovery. And in case you ever fly AA (American) again, we’ve got you covered. Get well soon.” The Virgin Atlantic Team

When he opened the box that came with the flowers and card, inside were a pair of kneepads, elbow pads and some other protective equipment. Of course, this passenger couldn’t refrain from sharing what was certainly a humorous outreach from a competing airline. Naturally, the story quickly spread around the Internet.

Being in the car business, chances are that you hear stories like this all the time. Not necessarily someone getting injured at a competitor’s dealership, but perhaps simply someone upset at how they were treated or some other such complaint. Whether you see these stories on the news, the Internet, or via social media, there is a good chance of one underlying fact: that customer will probably NOT be patronizing that dealership any longer. Which means they will need someplace else to do business.

Customer loyalty and retention are fickle things, especially in this world of high-maintenance customers who want everything on demand. Owning and acknowledging your mistakes and making appropriate apologies can rectify most accidents or poor experiences with your customers. Failing to do so can leave a wide-open opportunity for that customer to defect to a competitor.

So, whether it was your customer who had a mishap or your competitors, opportunities exists. If it’s your customer, you have an opportunity to make things right and keep them. If it’s your competition’s customer, this very well could lead to a low-cost customer acquisition and some word-of-mouth marketing – or both. Regardless of which end of the situation you find yourself on, reaching out to the customer when the opportunity arises could pay off exponentially.

Bio: Mike has a variety of professional automotive and business development credentials having of 18 years of operational management experience on the OEM side with Ford, Nissan and General Motors. As a true Internet pioneer, Mike combined his knowledge of wholesale and retail dealership operations with emerging internet technologies and created CarSmart.com in 1994. Later acquired by a publicly traded corporation it was the largest automotive internet acquisition at that point in time. Mike is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with degrees in Industrial Education and Process Engineering. 

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