You broke it, you should fix it. You’re liable, just admit it.
— Dave Carroll
One of the problems affiliate program managers often face is that of not knowing how to deal with the mistakes they commit. Many believe that admitting their mistakes equals admitting that they are lousy at what they do. In reality, things work the other way around. It is failing to admit one’s mistake that makes one a bad affiliate program manager.
John Heaney published a good article on the lessons to learn from (a) the “public viral humiliation” that United Airlines have suffered “with the release of YouTube sensation United Breaks Guitars” and (b) his own recent experience with Continental Airlines.
The whole situation with Dave Carroll vs United Airlines reminded me personally of two things: (i) of how powerful the word-of-mouth really is these days, and (ii) how important it is for businesses to promptly admit, and correct their mistakes.
Speaking of dealing with mistakes, Heaney boils things down to 4 steps:
- Accept responsibility
- Explain how you will correct the mistake
- Correct the mistake
Let me emphasize something one more time: there is nothing wrong with admitting and owning the fact that a mistake has been made. It gets wrong when you fail to admit one.
In contrast with United, there’s an airline company in Germany that does do it the right way. It is called Lufthansa. Both of these companies belong to the Star Alliance, but one is significantly more star-worthy than the other. Just fly over the Atlantic with United and return on a Lufthansa flight (probably won’t cost you a penny more), and you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. Besides their impeccable service, Lufthansa also deals with their mistakes beautifully. Last year, they did not let us (my wife, my daughter and myself) board the plane because of some technical issue, and we had to wait some 4-5 hours for the next flight; but Lufthansa (i) accepted the responsibility, (ii) apologized, (iii) put us into a business lounge to wait for our new flight, and (iv) paid us a total of some $1,500 for the inconvenience we incurred. Needless to say that Lufthansa is now our preferred airline when it comes to routes where they are competing with other airlines (even if it costs me a bit more than what their competitors are charging). No, not because of the cash they pay to correct their mistakes (that too, but there’s more to stellar customer service!) They care, and this is extremely important.