As the old bumper sticker says, shit happens. Despite all you do to prevent it, all the systems and all the rules, when humans are involved, things can and will go wrong.
The real issue is what you do to contain the initial error, to prevent it from becoming a disaster.
Of course, that’s the minimum that you should do. Leaders who think strategically leverage errors, the lemons, into positive outcomes, that is, into lemonade.
As I write this, a dumb ass stupid management problem at Southwest Airlines is trending in the news.
As Fox News reports, a Minnesota man and his 6 and 9 year old children were asked to get off a Southwest Airlines flight and were not allowed back on the plane until he deleted an uncomplimentary tweet about a gate agent.
The passenger, a top level Southwest frequent flyer, got into a disagreement with the gate agent over whether his young children could board with his priority group, as they had been allowed in the past. When the gate agent refused to permit them to board with the priority group, the passenger asked for her full name and she refused to give it.
The passenger tweeted about the incident and about the gate agent’s rudeness. Then, after he and his children were finally allowed to board, they were removed from the plane until he agreed to delete the tweet. The gate agent reportedly felt that the tweet threatened her safety. Sure it did.
The customer is not always right and Southwest is famous for standing up for its employees. But sometimes that’s the stupid thing to do.
Value is measured in the eyes of the customer and it’s ridiculous to destroy that value, especially in the eyes of a highly loyal customer.
Southwest offered each of the father and his two children a $50 voucher and said that it’s investigating. But they’ve already received a gazillion dollars worth of bad press.
All that could have been avoided with the right hiring and training policies and with the right managers who could have stepped in to prevent one employee from damaging the company’s reputation.
But when viewed strategically, most problems, from those of airlines to ASCs, are indeed opportunities, problems that can be flipped and made, through very fast filtering through your group’s overall strategy followed by very fast deployment of a conforming tactic, into wins. I refer to this as The Situation Transformer™ – it’s making lemons into lemonade.
In the Southwest scenario, one slightly more competent manager could have handled the customer as someone of value, apologizing for the way he was treated and offering some real perks. They could have turned an initially poorly handled customer into an ambassador of goodwill.