In 2009, Dave Carroll (a professional musician from Nova Scotia, Canada) engaged a massive worldwide audience to share his customer service story about United Airlines. Using YouTube.com to deliver his message, he wrote and performed a song that has made an impact. Some people estimate 100 million people saw his video.
You see, United Airline broke his $3500 guitar then rejected his request that they pay for it. But after his video went viral United changed their corporate mind and offered to reimburse him.
I see several important lessons here for management.
1. Do the right thing first, not last.
Isn’t it funny how many big companies offer to do the right thing AFTER they get massive amounts of negative publicity they refused to do the right thing earlier? Do they not account for the value of this bad publicity? Or do they simply not care?
2. Do not ignore customer voice.
It’s growing every day. The power of the Internet has given customers a new confidence. More than ever, customers expect to heard. If the company won’t listen then other people will. And this sort of social proof will affect companies profoundly if they ignore it.
3. Treat everyone well all the time.
You could give United Airlines credit for treating a celebrity as badly as they treat everyone else. At least they don’t seem to discriminate based on a customer’s perceived status. But this is little to celebrate. Better they should treat all their customers well all the time.
4. There is a big opportunity here.
When your industry has become a cliche for lousy customer service, you have an opportunity. If most of your competitors deliver service at a horrendously low level, then you can grab more customer loyalty by beating their standards. It shouldn’t take much for an airline to stand out from the rest. Maybe now is the best time to try this strategy.
After United offered to pay for his guitar, Dave Carroll published this statement in response. He seems like a class act. I hope the leaders at United (and other companies) pay attention.