When the lights went out during this year's Superbowl, my immediate thoughts were, "New Orleans will have a hard time convincing the NFL to let it host another Superbowl."
I immediately thought of Jet Blue, and its systems failures on Valentines Day in 2007, causing thousands of flights to be cancelled, and stranding more thousands of customers. How does a company restore its reputation, after such a public catastrophe?
Entergy New Orleans did what Jet Blue did: They handled the situation in a way that will not only restore any lost trust, but potentially increase the level of confidence among their customers. They were candid, specific, and put forth a plan for resolution.
Entergy New Orleans was open and honest in taking the blame. They openly said, "It's our fault." Too often, a company will offer statements that show some remorse, but don't explicitly say, "We're the ones to blame." Customers need to hear statements of ownership. That's the first step in rebuilding trust.
Identify the Root Cause
Once you've taken the blame, explain exactly what caused the problem, and be specific.
David Neeleman, founder and CEO of JetBlue identified specific factors within outdated information systems, that prevented the airline from taking steps to adjust to the storm.
Similarly, Entergy New Orleans identified a relay setting within the switching gear, as the ultimate cause of the power failure. Offering detailed, plausible explanations for what went wrong change the focus from emotional finger-pointing, toward problem-solving.
Present a Plan for Resolution
You need to give customers a concrete reason to believe that things will be better in the future; that the problem won't happen again. David Neeleman vowed to replace the outdated systems, and immediately established and communicated a new "Customer Bill of Rights."
Going public with a specific plan to prevent the issue from recurring will be the next step for Entergy New Orleans, and SMG, which manages the Superdome.
Execute on the Plan
A plan is just a plan, until it's put into action. That's when real change happens, and that when future potential problems are prevented. Once a clear plan is established, Entergy New Orleans anad SMG will need to carry out that plan, and communicate to their consitutents what's been done.
Jet Blue is a stonger company today for having endured t he Valentine's Day Massacre in 2007, because of the way they handled the situation. Entergy New Orleans will likely be stronger, more trustworthy, and supplying the power to more Superbowls, by continuing down the path of candor, causality and action.