Monday, April 11, 2011

Ground the Flight of Customer Fears

A while back, Southwest Airlines reinforced their image of wit and excitement. “You are now free to move about the cabin” became “You are now free to move about the country.”
     “Yeah, sucked through a hole in the ceiling. Without a jet pack,” quips Steve Scauzillo, who edits the opinion pages of the Pasadena Star-News. He was referring to the sudden disappearance of a portion of a Southwest 737-300 while flying at 34,000 feet on April 1.
     The airline promptly pulled 79 of their 737’s from service in order to undergo thorough inspections, cancelling about 620 flights and delaying about 2,700 others. This action contrasts sharply with the slow, incremental response about two years ago after a Southwest plane suffered a fuselage break.
     One result this time was that at least three more planes were found to have structural defects. Another result, from a consumer psychology perspective, was that a source of customer concerns was isolated and grounded. Southwest can say it was the 737’s in their fleet that were the problem, and now the 737’s have been checked.
     When you find that a product you’re selling or action you’ve taken has led to fear or grief among your customers, isolate the problem and correct it. If there are repeated media inquiries or if you sense something is important for the customer to know, report what you’ve done. Otherwise, go about your business, allowing consumers’ thinking to move on.
     Researchers at Washington State University and University of Texas-Austin use the term “willful ignorance” to refer to their finding that there’s information consumers would prefer not to know. They say that willful ignorance operates subconsciously and it occurs because handling the full truth would be overly painful.
     This led the researchers to a conclusion that seems strange at first: Consumers who care the most about an issue are the ones most likely to hide from the reality. But it does make sense.
  • The business traveler scheduled to fly on Southwest prefers not to think more about the safety issues, once they’ve heard that the problem’s been isolated and addressed.
  • The furniture shopper who would feel the deepest grief or embarrassment at having in their home any wood from an endangered rainforest turns out to be the shopper most likely to avoid asking about the origin of the material after they’ve decided they deeply love the item for sale.
Click below for more:
Assign Blame Accurately for Damage You Do
Acknowledge Customers’ Willful Ignorance
Space Out Bad News Products on Shelves

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