Malaysia Airlines’ handling of the entire situation was lackadaisical in nature. But was it entirely mismanaged by the authorities itself? Or were there any more reasons to it.
Take this lesson to find out and don’t forget to take the accompanying quiz at the end of the lesson.
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To be fair to the airline, it did respond to the tragedy. Only, it’s communication strategy was poor and failed to convey empathy, accuracy and urgency (or the three Rs of crisis communication – Regret, Reason and Remedy), traits vital in crisis communication.
For example, the airline released imprecise, incomplete, and sometimes inaccurate information, with civilian officials sometimes contradicting military leaders.
So, despite its response, the airline attracted widespread criticism from the media. China’s state press agency Xinhua slammed the Malaysian government for lack of transparency, saying: “It is known to all that inaccurate, or at least incomplete, information led the initial search in the South China Sea nowhere and thus that precious time was wasted.”
The airline also came under fire from families of those on board Flight 370 and foreign governments. Vietnam authorities who were part of the search operations, expressed concern about poor early coordination efforts and said Malaysian officials weren’t responsive to request for information. China, which had 154 nationals on board, noted the lack of progress in the search and called for greater transparency. Some family members accused the government of a cover-up when it announced the plane was lost in the Indian Ocean with no survivors.
The fallout of the tragedy, and the poor perception of the airline’s response to the same had a negative impact on the airline’s image and coffers. In an interview held on July 3, a month after the disaster unfolded, Malaysia Airlines’ chief executive Ahmad Jauhari Yahya acknowledged in an interview to the Wall Street Journal that ticket sales had declined and that he was not sure when the airline could start repairing its image.
Both these stories, tragic as they are, point to something very vital as far as customer centricity is concerned…
Responding to a crisis is undoubtedly difficult, but assuming responsibility, keeping an open line of communication with customers, and not trying to save face are vital in such situations.
Keep customers abreast of all developments, whether good or bad. Customers seek that. Yes, it can be an ordeal to admit to the customer when it’s your mistake or when things fail to go along as planned. However, keeping them informed when a problem crops up, shows that you are aware of the issue at hand and not afraid to bring it to light. Besides the customer also gets the message that you are proactively working on fixing it. This is enough to let them give you the benefit of the doubt and at least a limited amount of time to resolve the issue.
Just ensure that your customers never get the mushroom treatment.