In his nearly seven years as CEO of Air New Zealand, Rob Fyfe made sure he answered each email personally, even the most difficult customer complaints.
Some of the emails were "colourful", says Fyfe, but he remembers one particular comment from a customer who complained about how his flights were always delayed.
“You service is lower than a snake’s scrotum,” the customer wrote.
Fyfe says he may not be that familiar with snakes’ anatomy, but the sentiments of the email were still clear. He apologised to the sender and explained the delay was due to a system that was critical to flight safety and the pilot certainly did make the right decision in this instance. He also stated that the airline has the best on-time performance in the region, with close to 90 percent of flights taking off within 15 minutes of the scheduled departure time.
The sender offered him two bottles of his best French Bordeaux for a wager that his next two flights will be delayed. Fyfe matched it with six bottles of the wine the airline serves in business class.
Fyfe won the wager, and when the sender asked him how enjoyed the wine, the CEO said he would like to share it with all of those responsible for ensuring the planes left on time but it would be like “having communion”.
Instead he offered to auction it off for Koru Care, a charity that organises trips for seriously ill and disabled children. In response, the customer sent more bottles of Grange to be auctioned off for the charity.
Don’t shy away from a complaint; engage with the complainant, figure out what the problem is and how you can restore their confidence.
“Don’t shy away from a complaint; engage with the complainant, figure out what the problem is and how you can restore their confidence,” says Fyfe, who related this incident at the recent CIO Leaders’ Luncheon in Auckland, sponsored by Fronde.