When a WestJet flight crew realized there was a mix-up with a guest's dog on a flight to Fort McMurray, they knew making it right would involve more than getting the pet home.
Owner and dog were happily reunited after the mix-up, says Stephen Platt, WestJet's director of guest experience, but the flight team didn't stop at an apology. Instead, they contacted a local gift basket company to have a basket of dog treats and toys sent to the guest's home. "It's those kinds of things that don't cost an awful lot of money, but boy, do they make WestJetters feel good about taking care of the guest," says Platt.
WestJet's employee empowerment program is unique in an industry known for its high volume of customer complaints. It offers every WestJetter, regardless of position, the opportunity to be the "CEO of the Moment." As Platt describes it: "In this moment, you are the CEO of WestJet, the one who knows the situation, and the only person with enough context to do what's right for the guest."
Sometimes that means issuing a credit for a delayed flight, but most of the time it's just about making guests feel special, such as sending a birthday card to a guest who celebrated a milestone at 30,000 feet. Whatever the promise, the WestJetter passes it on to the Facilitation Crew, who execute it without question. By creating a team dedicated to fulfilling these special requests, WestJet ensures no customer is forgotten.
If the idea of giving your staff carte blanche seems scary, Platt says business owners might be surprised at how often their staff will get it right. "The way we mitigate risk around WestJetters having complete control, with no financial limits, is that we couple our ownership mentality with great frontline training," says Platt. "We walk through scenarios and provide them with guidelines and examples of things that have worked really well in the past."
To empower your own "CEOs of the Moment" and win more customer loyalty, Platt offers four tips on building your own employee empowerment program:
- "Make sure you ask your employees what they need," says Platt. Your frontline employees connect with your customers every day, so use their knowledge a resource.
- "When you create an empowerment program, you've got to make sure that trust starts at the top, and it manifests itself every day," says Platt. For example, WestJet CEO Gregg Saretsky frequently references and supports WestJet's employee empowerment program.
- Empowerment only works with the right support and resources. If you tell your staff you'll support the decisions they make to help a customer, you must honour every promise. If there's a problem, don't criticize, says Platt. Instead, "have a conversation about how the decision was made, and offer guidance on how to make a better decision next time."
- Share your success stories in a weekly email, on the bulletin board, or through the company intranet. Hearing how a team member created a better customer experience inspires everyone.