listen – laugh – love

A little taste of my Social Media love…

Don’t Go Breaking My…Guitar

on June 12, 2014

We’ve all been there – lost luggage, damaged luggage, late luggage…

As the list grows longer, airlines seem to grow less interested in remedying these situations. For United Airlines, one customer’s yearlong battle led to an unexpected and viral social situation.

Dave Carroll, a Canadian musician, and his band passed through a Chicago airport on a connecting flight to Omaha. As the group waited on the plane, they noticed United baggage handlers haphazardly heaving guitar cases into the plane’s storage space. One of those cases housed Carroll’s $3,500 Taylor acoustic guitar. When he retrieved his precious instrument, he discovered the bass of it had been smashed. Throughout the next year, Carroll went back and forth with United to get the issue resolved. According to his website, his damage claim was initially denied by United because it was Air Canada’s issue (another airline completely) and he didn’t report the issue within 24 hours.

Obviously unsatisfied with United’s response, Carroll did what he does best…he wrote a song about it! To the tune of 14 million views, the result was a glorious, hilarious and viral video chronicling his yearlong struggle with the airline. Take a look at the video below:

So this brings me to my real question this week – what you have done different if you were United?!

Well, I would hope that the situation would have never reached this level in the first place. Dave met so many people along the way that could have easily remedied the situation; however, this wasn’t the case and it exploded into something that never needed to happen. For the sake of this assignment, we’ll say it DID get to this point…

  1. Respond Immediately
    • Once you’ve received notice of the video, you need to leap into action right away. Ideally, you would have various monitoring systems in place (Google Alerts) and you would know shortly after something like this hit the Internet.
    • Publically acknowledge that you’ve seen the video. Leave a comment on the video apologizing for the ordeal and ask the customer to contact you directly (provide your information) so you can research the situation on your end.
  2. Research & Communicate
    • Once the customer contacts you, get the facts! Learn their side of the story and collect as many details as possible. Communicate with the customer and let them know you are going to reach out to the various departments of your company. Let them know you’ll get back to them shortly.
    • Armed with their information, begin researching the situation with your company. Contact your customer service department, your human resources team, your claims department and any other team the customer’s situation might have touched.
  3. Solve & Thank
    • After collecting all of the necessary information, put together a GREAT solution to offer the customer. Not just some flight vouchers and an upgrade on their next trip – think personal! Offer to pay for the cost of fixing his guitar or offer to buy him a brand new guitar – let him choose which option he’d like! Of course, give him those flight vouchers and upgrades as well!
    • Once everything has been tied up, publically thank the customer for taking the time to reach out to you about his situation. Applaud his creativity, apologize one last time and let him know you’re excited for him to fly with you again.

Be sure to follow up with the customer in the following weeks and months. In fact, begin following his music career and congratulating him on his accomplishments. The customer clearly put a great deal of time and effort into his initial video; he deserves the same level of time and effort from you and your company! Your goal should always be to create lasting relationships with your customers – in the end, maybe you can even turn a disgruntled customer into a brand advocate!

Ta-ta for now!


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4 responses to “Don’t Go Breaking My…Guitar

  1. Hi Lacee,
    I totally agree with you in the potential of being able to turn a brand hater into a brand advocate or evangelist (I talked about the same thing in my blog). I also liked how you talked about roping in all of the different departments that may have dealt with Dave Carroll’s situation. The situation could most definitely serve as a refresher course for United employees, reminding them about policies and procedures. It could even serve as an opportunity for management to see if it may be time to revisit/change some of those policies. Your bullet points for how to solve a problem reminded me of a place that I worked at in my teens/early 20s. We had the acronym L.A.S.T (listen, apologize, satisfy, thank) which is pretty much the basis of good customer service. Those basic building blocks of good customer service don’t go away because you throw social media in the mix.

    • Hi Amanda!

      Thanks for reading! I think it’s important to make sure that you have the FULL story from every possible avenue that touched the situation – it’s the only way to make a truly educated choice when offering compensation or a “fix” to the situation. I love the L.A.S.T. model in pretty much every form! It’s such a great tool no matter what type of product or service your company produces – great customer service should be a constant throughout every industry and the L.A.S.T. model can really help you achieve that!

  2. Justin says:

    A very well thought through response. Did you come up against any ethical implications at all?

    • Hi Justin!

      I think that Dave’s situation goes directly against United’s “customer commitment” listed on their website. It reads as follows:

      “We are committed to providing a level of service to our customers that makes us a leader in the airline industry. We understand that to do this we need to have a product we are proud of and employees who like coming to work every day.”

      They clearly did not provide a leadership level of customer service in Dave’s case! The customer commitment page goes on to say, “Our goal is to make every flight a positive experience for our customers.” Again, clearly this was not the case in Dave’s case and is a direct violation of their written customer code. Going against that is just wrong.

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