Monday, July 17, 2023

How and When Should a Brand Apologize?


Recently, United Airlines experienced delays and flight cancellations due to weather in the Northeast. Naturally, this caused customer dissatisfaction. However, the most upsetting news surrounding this situation was that the CEO of United Airlines, Scott Kirby, took a private jet from Teterboro, New Jersey to Denver, Colorado, the same day that United canceled 750 flights.

Should Scott Kirby have taken a private jet? A spokesperson for United said, “Scott Kirby made the wrong decision, which was insensitive to customers who were waiting to get home.”

Should United Airlines have done more to accommodate passengers who were stuck at airports without hotel rooms?

Should United Airlines have done more to accommodate flight attendants who were also stuck in cities without hotels and waited on hold for hours to find out their flight assignments?

Who was monitoring United Airlines’ social channels to respond to customers with cancelled flights?

After what seemed like forever, Kirby provided the following statement, “Watching our team firsthand with our customers at four different airports and during countless meetings this week, it’s clear to me that they represent the best of United, and I regret that I have distracted from their professionalism. I promise to better demonstrate my respect for the dedication of our team members and the loyalty of our customers.”

Would that so-called apology work for you if you had spent the night at an airport while thinking of Kirby flying from New Jersey to Colorado? Definitely not! There should have been a better speech writer in Kirby’s team. And what about offering customers flight vouchers or free drinks at the airport upon arrival?

Has your brand ever had to apologize to customers? What words were used? What was the tone of the message? Did your CEO post a video to YouTube or your website?

In this era of seeing news almost as it happens, it’s important for all brands to have a crisis communications strategy before it’s needed – and adding a script for apologies should be part of that plan.

Image Credit: TravelWeekly.

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