Plan for Failure

Murphy’s Law – you’ve heard of it, know it, and probably even lived it at one time or another. “If anything can go wrong, it will” is more than a lament; it is a call for managers to think about what can go wrong and how an organization will respond to adversity.

A reminder of the need to plan for a surprise visit by Murphy can be taken away from Southwest Airlines’ botched Facebook promotion last Friday. A 50% off fare sale intended to celebrate Southwest reaching 3,000,000 fans on Facebook blew up as a technology glitch caused some customers to be charged as many as 35 times for the same transaction. The company known by many as LUV was not feeling a lot of from irate customers.

What will be the response when Murphy sets up shop in your department or company? Most strategic planning focuses on how to achieve success – meet objectives, reach goals, and advance the business. Planning should include failure, too. The nature of the planning differs as it is not about how to achieve failure but rather how to mitigate it when it occurs. Examples of areas to address in failure planning include:

  1. Customer service response
  2. Public relations response
  3. Social media response
  4. Leadership response

It is impossible to plan specifically for failure as there are so many ways Murphy can invade your organization. But some essential considerations are:

  • How will a failure situation be handled – Within functional silos or by a cross-functional crisis management team?
  • Who are the key personnel that should be involved in resolving a failure situation?
  • What are acceptable benchmarks for delivering a response for each of the four areas (customer service, PR, social media, and leadership)?

Failure is inevitable, so is the need to plan for failure. How an organization responds when things go bad can either build trust with customers or destroy it. In Southwest’s case, it appears to be working diligently to refund all affected customers quickly. While relationships with some customers have likely been irreparably harmed, Southwest’s response will be a starting point for making amends with impacted customers.

Marketing Daily – “Southwest Facebook Promo Hits Turbulence”

Pique Your Customers’ Curiosity to Drive Web Traffic

What drives traffic to your web site? Paid search? Search engine optimization? Those tactics are effective and should be a part of the online strategy for most marketers. However, there is a less tech driven way to prompt people to visit your web site: curiosity. Two examples I encountered recently came from Southwest Airlines and the National Water Council. Southwest is currently running a campaign that offers 50% fare discounts, with a different city featured each day over the course of the four-day promotion. The catch: consumers need to go to to find out what the “mystery city” is each day of the promotion.

I received a postcard recently offering a free bottle of my favorite laundry detergent. All I needed to do was go to Once I arrived there, name, e-mail address, and favorite laundry detergent brand info was requested. The promotion is an effort by the National Water Council to get participants for its National Water Quality Awareness Program. The promotion expands the group’s database of persons it can reach with its message. The intrigue of the offer and the straightforward URL made it too tempting to pass on visiting the web site.

These examples remind us that if we want to web surfers to visit our site, we must go beyond considering the architecture of web site design and analytics of keywords. Create some excitement through a mystery promotion, one that is too compelling to ignore!

Wi-Fi: The Next Frontier for Airlines?

“You’re now free to move about the country” may soon take on a new meaning. Southwest Airlines is conducting a test program that offers free Wi-Fi internet access on its flights. One plane is already equipped with the service, and three more planes will offer Wi-Fi beginning next month. After a 60-day test period, Southwest will decide whether to roll out Wi-Fi access to the rest of its fleet.

This offering seems to be one that is long overdue. Internet access in-flight could enhance the productivity of business travelers flying with Southwest or be an inexpensive alternative to offering in-flight movies. The most refreshing aspect of Southwest’s Wi-Fi service is that it is free, a word not often uttered in the airline industry. Rather than coming up with creative ways to extract money from customers in the form of new fees, Southwest is seeking to add benefits to one’s flight experience. Little wonder Southwest has fared better than most other airlines in the past decade.

Link: Marketing Daily – “Southwest Testing Wi-Fi On Board”