How Southwest Airlines Rebuilds Trust After Service Failures

Explaining Why/How a Problem Happened Helps Companies Regain Goodwill and Rebuild Trust

A vital, but often overlooked element of customer recovery is to provide an explanation for how or why the problem happened. Taking the time to explain to a customer what might have caused the problem helps organizations re-establish trust.

 Explaining to customers what might have caused the service failure may (also) enhance customer satisfaction.  Similarly, in the service recovery context, open communication may alleviate customers’ bad feelings about the service failure

 Hui Liao

Providing an explanation can be as simple as saying, “Thanks for taking the time to let us know about _____. We appreciate customers who let us know when things aren’t right.  Here’s what we think may have happened…”

In my “Before You Hit Send” email webinar, I teach people to carefully acknowledge and explain the issue via email immediately after apologizing. The placement and wording of the justification is critical. Here’s the example justification from Southwest Airlines I will share in Friday’s webinar. This is a portion of a full recovery letter. The paragraph shown here is a very good justification of the problem and it comes immediately after an apology.

“Shortly after takeoff, the Pilots received a low pressure indication for one of the two independent hydraulic systems (A&B) on the aircraft. In response to this situation the Captain returned to have the aircraft inspected. In this case, the problem was with the A hydraulic System – there was a fluid leak. After speaking with our Maintenance Department, I learned that the supply line which helps operate one of the movable panels on the aircraft’s wing surface was leaking hydraulic fluid, and as such, the corresponding line was then replaced to fix the problem.”

 Click on image to read the entire Southwest letter

The goal of complaint handling is to completely restore customer confidence and regain goodwill. A critical element of restoring customer confidence is to offer a justification for why/how the problem happened. Make sure your employees carefully offer a justification to your customers after service failures and you’ll begin to rebuild customer trust and regain customer goodwill.

For help with complaint handling over email, consider my Before You Hit Send webinar. We’re broadcasting live Friday, March 11th at 1pm ET. The recording will be available for those who can’t attend the live event.