Can it be good to “fail” your customers? Yes, if you turn the bad experience into something good.

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Most of us are familiar now with the United Airlines saga, where an unfortunate passenger was forcibly removed from a plane as the airline sought to make room for four flight crew members trying to get to their connecting flight.

Like most stories, there are more angles to this one than meet the (obvious) eye. The irate passenger undoubtedly was belligerent and if United hadn’t boarded these crew members, other flights (and many more passengers) would have been severely disrupted. Yet the optics are certainly not good.

However, bad experiences can be turned into learning and recovery opportunities, according to this PeopleMetrics blog posting.

It’s time to begin the process of learning from your failures.

  1. We get it. Failure isn’t fun: when valuable customers are unhappy; or if the people, data, processes and technologies that help you design and deliver those experiences don’t work as well as they should; or the myriad other ways that things can go wrong. The good news is that an opportunity to learn from failure is almost always right around the corner.
  2. So first recognize that part of your job as a customer experience professional is to leverage failure to do better in the future. From The Other “F” Word, here are a few things you can start doing today:
  3. “Begin talking about failure.” The rich Voice-of-the-Customer (VoC) most customer-centric organizations gather is rife with stories of things not going as hoped or planned. You can lead reviews of this data in non-judgmental ways, and encourage open dialogues that look for answers (not blame).
  4. “Treat your business like a scientist.” At the core of most customer experience teams is the ability to understand why things do and don’t work, and the ability to use data and analytics to help inform this understanding. You have the tools and the ability. Now’s the time to start focusing those skills on learning from failure as well.
  5. “Focus on the What, How, and Why before the Who.” Organizational culture is a funny thing. Planned or not, it exists. When it comes to failure – and the ability to improve customer experience – that culture needs to focus on problem identification and solutions, rather than a ‘need’ to ascribe responsibility.
  6. “Don’t Waste A Good Failure.” As we’ve all heard, the greatest thing to fear is often fear itself. This holds true here as well; fear of failure is likely the biggest obstacle you’ll have to overcome. But now, you have access to some tools you can use to help you and your organization begin to reduce the fear of failure by building trust and support along with accountability.
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