The JetBlue Example: Are Your Employees Preparing to Slide Down the Chute?

The JetBlue Example: Are Your Employees Preparing to Slide Down the Chute?

By now, everyone has heard the story about the JetBlue Flight attendant who became frustrated with a passenger, expressed his anger over the public address system, and exited the plane via the emergency chute.   While it’s still not clear what exactly transpired on the plane, one thing that is clear is that many took his side, despite his bizarre actions.  Why did people praise his behavior?  Is it that airline customers empathize with airline travel stress, since they know firsthand the stress and overcrowding of many flights?  

To us, it shows the connection between the employee experience and the customer experience. We’ve found the following three things to be true:

# Companies that recognize, reward and respond to employee feedback have employees who are more satisfied in their jobs.  But these are not enough. To keep employees satisfied in an industry that is constantly changing, ongoing communication and explanations of changes will help maintain employee satisfaction.   More satisfied employees are less likely to “blow up” in difficult customer situations and are more likely to provide a positive customer experience.
# Customer satisfaction surveys help companies proactively identify customer concerns or areas where they desire more explanation or communication from the company.  In the case of an airline, if customers comment negatively on a certain employee repeatedly, management knows to meet with the employee to develop an improvement plan.  Chances are, if one employee is not performing up to standards, others are not also.  If the survey reveals overhead bin complaints, the airline could explain the requirements more clearly.  
# The fact that more and more companies measure the customer experience through interactive voice response (IVR) surveys and web surveys is commendable. Not as many, however, survey their own employees. Employee surveys include questions on communication effectiveness, job satisfaction, teamwork, and views on a comfortable and safe workplace.   Answers alert management to employees’ main concerns.  

What type of employee stress caused the JetBlue outburst?  Of course, it’s possible that the employee’s stress was non-work related. But if the stress was work-related, could JetBlue have recognized contributing factors earlier? Firms that conduct internal surveys use the information to help prepare frontline employees for managing unusually stressful situations.   Employee surveys help them anticipate future employee problems and address solutions in training.  If companies survey employees over time, and respond to concerns, they can hopefully prevent that next employee from sliding down the chute!

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