Opinion: Three lessons for us all from the Cook Corfu crisis

Amanda Matthews, managing director, Designer Travel

Historically, it was drilled into us that all PR is good PR. That was when the world relied on TV, radio, newspapers and fax machines.

Since the dawn of social media, the world has changed beyond recognition and I am sure that recent events have left Thomas Cook feeling rather battle weary.

Our business, along with most other UK travel businesses, has embraced new media channels such as Facebook and Twitter as a medium for sharing good news, updates, offers and more.

We use social networks to communicate with speed and accuracy to a wide and diverse audience.

We want to be part of people’s lives, but that commitment to sharing means that we need to be ready to deal with different types of situations as they arise.

If we take the Corfu story in isolation, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on what important lessons we can learn from this tragedy and its aftermath so that history doesn’t repeat itself.

Lesson one: Say sorry

Lesson number one is easy: master the ability to say “sorry”.

Trying to justify why something has happened, instead of just holding up our hands and saying “I got it wrong and I am sorry”, is often the preferred choice. 

In our business we strive for perfection but we know there are times when we fall short.

In these cases I’d like to think that, more often than not, we not only try to put the situation right but also apologise with real sincerity.

Saying sorry doesn’t have to be associated with accepting liability. The word ‘sorry’ in itself is a powerful, almost unwritten way, of saying ‘look, I understand, let’s see if we can work this out’.

Lesson two: Learn and act

The second lesson is to learn from previous incidents. Take proactive steps to ensure that history won’t  repeat itself.

Don’t wait to be asked and certainly don’t wait to be told what action or actions to take.

Be bold, take the actions required in the shortest possible timeframe and then tell the world – cynics and all – about the steps you have taken.

Some will frown and take the ‘too little too late’ attitude; others will respect you for doing your best to put learnings into action.

Lesson three: Empathise

Lesson number three might take some practice as I suspect most of us think we do this: learn how to respect people’s feelings and try hard to understand why they may have reacted in a particular way.

Empathy is very powerful and rewarding. Talk of emotional intelligence is very hip and I urge you to find out more about what this means in practice.

Legal channels are there for a reason. But if we can all be a little more sensitive and caring about the way we do things, maybe the world – or at least the travel world – might be a better place.

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