Guest Blog 4: How not to do it
August 1, 2011
You may have heard the story about United Airlines, whose baggage handlers were responsible for breaking the guitar of Canadian singer/songwriter Dave Carroll in 2009.
When United Airlines refused to accept responsibility and offer compensation, Dave wrote and recorded a song about the event called ‘United Breaks Guitars’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo), which he posted on YouTube and which immediately became an Internet phenomenon. It has had nearly 10 million views, which is the kind of attention you obviously don’t want if you’re United Airlines.
This is one of a number of examples of how one disgruntled customer can have a major impact on a brand, but the reason this example is especially important is because Dave Carroll can’t be dismissed as some Internet lunatic with a grudge.
Dave was a perfectly reasonable customer who tried all the official channels first. United Airlines professed to be open and keen to engage, but their actions did not match their words. Many believe this episode was responsible for a 10% drop in the share price of United Airlines and it could all have been easily avoided by simply engaging with the customer instead of hiding behind company policy.
Does this mean you should listen to every single one of your customers? If you’re a national or multi-national company, that’s not going to be easy and it may not always be the right thing to do. What will help you to decide, though, depends how engaged you already are with your customers.
If you have a relationship with your customers (or clients, patients, users...) you will be aware of what they are thinking. You won’t get horrible surprises like United Airlines did. In fact, if relationships are done properly, your customers will be helping to guide the direction of your digital strategy and even your business decisions.
Welcome interaction, welcome discussion, welcome participation. It might just be that next time there is a problem, your customer tells you about it first, rather than the rest of the Internet.
Imagine what you could do with a panel of loyal, engaged customers who love your brand and want to help you out. The key is learning how to listen to them.
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