Posted tagged ‘Continental Airlines’

Dealing with Unexpected Consequences and Seth Godin

October 2, 2009

So how does, one deal with unintended consequences?

Honestly and quickly.

As part of my explanation, I will begin by telling you that I am a fan of Seth Godin. He considers himself a marketer and entrepreneur and agent of change. What I love most about him is that he makes me think.

Godin recently launched Brands in Public. His company, Squidoo, was going to set up a place that would aggregate content from around the Web, highlighting the good and informing of the bad, while letting the companies respond to the feedback. Not a bad idea – and his business model for doing this would result in annual payments from each of these companies totaling about $5,000.

The criticism came due to Godin’s decision to actively set up 200 of these ‘Brands In Public’ lenses (consider a “lense” like a location or site) before launch without the consent of the companies involved. The companies would be locked out of the lenses until they decided to sign up and pay up for the almost $5,000 a year service. At which time the lens would be unlocked. Some called it brandjacking, with online branding effectively taken hostage with a price on its head for release.

Needless to say the reaction to the model and its implementation was harsh.

However, Godin’s response was swift.

In his daily blog post, two days after launch, he wrote:

The response from the brands we’ve shared it with has been terrific, but other people didn’t like elements of it. And they were direct in letting me know.

The goal of the program is to invite brands into the conversation that’s already going on around the web, to make it easy for them to do it on their terms. I talked with a brand manager yesterday who explained that this is exactly what he’s been trying to do for his company, but the corporate website systems make that difficult for him. We want to open the door and to permit large brands a way to get started without having to roll their own solution.

One way we tried to encourage that was to build 200 sample pages, pages brands could adopt. Alas, some people felt that this was inappropriate, so we’ve recalibrated and we’ll take those pages down before the end of the day.

When a brand wants a page, we’ll build it, they’ll run it and we’ll both have achieved our goals.

Part of the magic of the web is that you can adjust as you go, particularly if you’re willing to listen.

I apologize if anyone was confused by my original post, and we’re looking forward to having major brands and non-profits using this tool the way we intended–to join in to the conversation that’s already happening all around us. Thanks as always for reading.

Putting aside the questions of whether Godin’s idea and implementation were appropriate, he does get points for addressing the problem honestly and in a hurry and that, I think, earns him the right to try again.

* * * * *

As to my post the other day about my recent experience with Continental Airlines, I received this response from Continental’s Customer Service Manager, Denise Epstein.

Your letter has brought up several very valid points. These are consequences that I have pondered, however, you have put them in words in a thoughtful and straightforward manner.

I will include your letter with the original complaint that was filed on your behalf. This includes your contact information if our management team needs to contact you.

I’ll let you know if it goes any further…

Unintended Consequences, Decisions and Continental Airlines

September 27, 2009

Decisions only scare me when I don’t understand their consequences. If I do, and as long as those consequences are acceptable, I’m fine. That’s why when confronted with a challenging decision, I always try to investigate what could result from it. It’s important to me that I weigh the potential positive and negative consequences.

My recent trip from San Francisco dramatized the importance of doing so.

Continental Airlines prides itself on “flying right.” Their brand is built on attentive service and well-planned departures and arrivals. In fact, in a press release earlier this month, I found this quote — “Continental’s corporate culture is based on treating customers and co-workers with dignity and respect,” said Diedra Fontaine, Continental’s director of diversity and sales development. “Dignity and respect are key principles of our Working Together cornerstone.”

Continental’s recent decision to charge for bags is a terrific example of unintended consequences and illustrates how a set of negative consequences can jeopardize a brand.

Continental, like many airlines, saw this additional baggage charge as a way to increase revenue. Their customers, however, responded by deciding to take more and more of their luggage on the flights so they could avoid the additional fees.

The unintended consequence: With more than 25 people waiting to get on board this plane from San Francisco, the overhead bins were completely filled. The flight attendants at the gate then proceeded to offer free baggage check-in to all those that had yet to board.

Some passengers took the attendants up on their offer and the gate and boarding ramps were transformed into luggage check–in areas. The attendants scrambled to check the luggage at the entry of the plane. This was difficult for them because the physical location made this problematic and most assuredly, assuming they were trained to do so, it was certainly not what these attendants intended to be doing at this time.

Many passengers chose not to check their luggage. They had to stow their bags underneath their seats, resulting in uncomfortable rides for many, many passengers and difficult entries and exits from where they were seated. More passengers also stood in the aisles for portions of the flight simply to stretch their legs.

As to those poor flight attendants…

They were trying to get the flights to take off on-time because that is one of the areas that Continental evidently measures.

Once the plane took off, the flight attendants rudely rushed to pass out the meals. The were frustrated and like most people put in similar situations, they never had the chance to regain their “balance” and they performed their work the way someone would do it if they were upset.

These were the short-term unintended consequences.

The long-term ones, of course, concern the brand and image of Continental.

And if these become tarnished enough, Continental may discover that the revenue that they gained in no way compensated for the customers that they lost.


%d bloggers like this: