Today, thankfully, five major airlines announced they will not introduce the same lame-brain carry-on baggage fees that Spirit Airlines, in its infinite wisdom, will be doing later this summer. At a time when corporate malfeasance continues running rampant, no doubt the vast majority of travelers will be pleased that in one fleeting instance, they won’t be nickel-and-dimed by big business yet again.
That being said, Spirit Airlines is still insistent that its new extortion customer-appreciation policy is good business. CEO Ben Baldanza clearly thinks that puppies can meow, and that “on balance [the new fee is] one that our customers will buy into.” Literally, Mr. Baldanza.
In a recent post, the Blog Aesthetic analyzed how Mr. Baldanza should have handled his company’s public relations roll-out for the new fee, arguing that that slap-across-the-face isn’t the best strategy in these situations. But now the company faces a different issue. No doubt Spirit Airlines was banking (again with the puns) on the idea that other airlines would play copy-cat, adopt similar fees and deflect attention from one company being the sole bogeyman. With this key link in the chain is broken, it’s entirely possible Spirit Airlines may shelve the policy at some point. When your company screws up in such epic ways and needs to do a hard 180, here are some key principles to keep in mind:
• Self-deprecation = PR gold. By simply saying “look, we screwed up on this one, and I hope we haven’t lost our customers confidence,” Mr. Baldanza can easily undo half the damage wrought by the fees. People love it when nasty CEOs are willing to admit mistakes, and this situation is no exception.
• If you take from your customers, then give back in equal – or better – measure. Just saying you’re sorry is ok, but try to go (fly?) the extra mile. Spirit Airlines could pick one day a week to waive all baggage fees. Turn it into a promotion, like “Bag Free Monday.” Even if it isn’t a high-traffic day, customers will appreciate being cut some slack. Communicating true contrition requires action, not just words.
• Déjà-vu all over again. If your company comes to its senses and ditches a controversial policy, then don’t try to breathe life into it again. No matter how you spin it, your customers will see through your corporate nonsense and be doubly angered. This time you’ll lose them for good, so play on the straight and narrow.
The Blog Aesthetic just gave you thousands of dollars of free advice, Mr. Baldanza. Maybe we’re just happy it’s spring, but either way, enjoy it while it lasts – so get to work!