After musician Dave Carroll learned from fellow passengers that United Airlines baggage handlers were damaging his guitar on the tarmac, he was unable to find anyone at United willing to make the situation right, so he made a music video about his woes. He posted the video on YouTube, chronicling in humorous detail United’s failure to provide appropriate service and their limp approach to repairing or reconciling the situation. This negative view of the United brand has been viewed by well over 10 million people! According to a blog written by The Economist, the Dave Carroll incident cost United Airlines about $180 million!
The impact on United is not surprising in a world where, according to recent Convergys research, social media has five times the impact of traditional word of mouth. Think of social media as word of mouth on steroids. The average post is read by 45 people, and 62 percent of customers who hear about a bad experience on social media stop doing business with, or avoid doing business with, the offending company.
A few years ago Dave would have had to work his way through the United bureaucracy and would most likely only been able to spread the word of his frustration by telling his story to friends. Perhaps he would have found a “consumer advocate” willing to tell his story on radio or television, which may have brought enough leverage to goad United into action. Not today! Dave rebelled and brought his story graphically in a music video to the power of the Internet and word of his situation spread at warp speed.
How do you turn today’s wired and dangerous customers into wired and delighted customers? It starts with keeping high touch in high tech…insuring the “customer” is kept in customer service and “relationship” is retained in customer relationship management. It includes staying very close to customers so hiccups can be resolved quickly and fairly before they go viral. It requires treating customers like valued partners not just income-generating consumers. Dave told us in an email that all he really wanted was for United to improve the policies and fix the practices that contributed to his nightmare. Guess what? That’s what all customers want.