Almost simulteously I had witness to 2 sets of CEOs apologizing for their company fucking up and delivering customer service significantly below their customers expectations.
Only 1 in 2 got the tenor of the apology right.
The first was apology was from Groupon‘s CEO Andrew Mason.
Then I read today that Groupon’s CEO had made a personal video apology for his companies fuck-up and he promised not to make the same mistakes again. [Video below]
He comes across as very genuine and honestly embarrassed by the whole incident.
You can really connect with him.
At the end of last year unprecedented snowfall caused widespread transport chaos in Western Europe.
It left many people stranded and struggling to get home.
In such a situation airlines, including AirFrance/KLM, could not keep up and seriously fucked-up many peoples lives and holidays.
But read text of the apology below;
Dear Mr GRANEY,
When travelling recently on our flights, you or a member of your family may have been affected by the consequences of the exceptionally adverse weather conditions which disrupted operations for several days at all the main airports in Northern Europe, including Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam-Schiphol.
All airlines found themselves obliged to cancel many flights in order to adapt their flight schedules to the ability of airport authorities to clear the snow from runways and de-ice aircraft. Many of you waited for hours before your flight took off.
In these very difficult circumstances, we were unfortunately unable to meet all your needs. We are very sorry about this and would like to present our most sincere apologies.
AIR FRANCE and KLM staff did all they could to limit the consequences of this crisis, especially for all those who were travelling home or on vacation for Christmas.
Hundreds of volunteers came to assist their colleagues at the terminals in Paris-Charles de Gaulle, Orly and Schiphol. We booked about 50,000 hotel rooms for our passengers with connecting flights. Our call centres and ticket offices received five times as many calls and visits as usual. Close to 350,000 information messages were sent by e-mail, text or telephone to inform customers of the changes to their itinerary. We provided real time information on our websites, as well as on Facebook and Twitter. Measures were taken to enable passengers to postpone their trip or to refund unused tickets. Staff from both airlines worked round the clock to sort baggage which had been delayed and ensure it was delivered to its owners. Finally, we did all we could to return to a normal flight schedule as soon as the weather conditions improved.
With authorities and airports, we will further work on limiting the effects of such situations in the future and on improving the services you have the right to expect in the case of operating irregularities.
We thank you for your loyalty and your continuing trust in our airlines and would like to wish you a very Happy New Year.
CEO of KLM
CEO of AIR FRANCE KLM
It does not sound genuine at all.
I emphasized the bit that is apologizing for the fuck-up.
I did this in case you missed it.
It makes up a tiny portion of the email, most of the email is explaining the situation that travellers found themselves in, which I am sure they were well aware of, and the rest is nothing but self-aggrandizing hagiographic prose.
Saying “we will further work on limiting the effects of such situations in the future” does not tell me WHAT they are actually planning to do to ensure that.
It sounds too much like they are dismissing the whole thing.
This brings me to the advice that I think CEOs should follow when their company has just fucked-up royally;
- Apologize in person: A video explaining the situation is a wonderful way to show you do not live in a platinum mansion drinking unicorn tears out of diamond goblet and actually do understand the travails of the “little people” [AKA. Customers] .
- Explain what you did wrong: Explaining the circumstances is not enough. Explain what you did wrong, not what happened. People already know what happened.
- Describe the specific steps you will take to ensure it will not happen again: Just saying “we will never do this again” is not enough. You have to describe a plan of action to ensure this does not happen again in future.
It is so disappointing that the CEOs of a major established airline can get a heartfelt apology so totally wrong but a CEO of a start-up who is half their age can get it so totally right.