All Canadians rejoice! The new Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) of United Airlines is one of your own. He’s none other than Dave Carroll. His music video entitled “United Breaks Guitars” (watch below) is approaching three million views in just one week of being uploaded on Youtube. This is more than five times the total views of all of United Airlines’ advertisements since 1984 on Youtube!

Why do I call Dave the new CMO of the airline? Simply, because he has more power to communicate something about United’s brand experience than anyone in their corporate offices. And people relate to his experience much more than the airline’s advertisements featuring sea creatures.

The accidental spokesperson

The legend goes that (yes…it’s a legend already) on a flight from Halifax, Canada to Nebraska, Omaha, Dave’s Taylor guitar worth $3500 was badly damaged by baggage handlers in Chicago – an act Dave and his fellow passengers witnessed. After almost a year of chasing United Airlines for a compensation in vain, this is what Dave concluded:

At that moment it occurred to me that I had been fighting a losing battle all this time and that fighting over this at all was a waste of time. The system is designed to frustrate affected customers into giving up their claims and United is very good at it.

However I realized then that as a songwriter and traveling musician I wasn’t without options. In my final reply to Ms. Irlweg I told her that I would be writing three songs about United Airlines and my experience in the whole matter. I would then make videos for these songs and offer them for free download online, inviting viewers to vote on their favourite United song. My goal: to get one million hits in one year.

Looks like Dave has accomplished much more in just one week, than what he intended to do in a year. Moreover, after about 50,000 views of the video, United Airlines contacted Dave and agreed to compensate him for the damage.

Three thoughts on United Airline’s response

Despite all the buzz on social media, I didn’t know whether United had compensated Dave, until he himself posted a video statement talking about the offer of compensation and requested United to donate it to charity instead. How nice of him. But I have three lingering thoughts.

  1. Why did United make an exception to their compensation rules only now, if it couldn’t be done earlier?
  2. If this was indeed a mistake on United’s part, then what about all those seeking compensation who can’t sing as well as Dave? Will exceptions be made to compensate them too?
  3. Why didn’t United respond using the same medium as Dave – social media?

An apology on Youtube in response to Dave’s video and an explanation of the matter would have saved United further blushes. Surprisingly, that didn’t happen. This, despite the fact that United has its own Youtube channel, and a strong Twitter presence with over 16,000 followers. Imagine the pain of the poor chap manning the Twitter feed these days, replying individually to hundreds of people asking him what United is doing about this.

What’s the point of putting out special fares on Twitter and uploading advertisements on Youtube, when obvious actions like these cannot be taken? I know they’re new in this game and are still learning, but this was an obvious opportunity to embrace the accidental spokesperson and turn the tide in their favor. If JetBlue could do it two years ago, why can’t United try it now? And it’s still not too late. Dave is going to appear on more than ten primetime news shows in the next couple of days.

Let’ see whether United responds on social media at all on this issue. Afterall, that’s the purpose of the medium – to have conversations and respond to them, rather than using it like a broadcast medium.

Meanwhile, enjoy Mr CMO’s claim to fame.

How do you think United could have better dealt with this situation? Through a Youtube response? Or by never allowing this to happen? What would you have done if you were working for United’s customer service dept? Let’s discuss in the comments or over on Twitter (@simpliflying)

Update (16 July): I’ve learnt from a number of people who’ve contacted me directly about this article that United has responded on Twitter on this issue and is answering questions personally. Even my request on Twitter was answered.

Here’s what Benet Wilson from Aviation Week wrote: To its credit, United Airlines saw the error of its ways and is now trying to resolve the situation.  And @UnitedAirlines was on Twitter explaining to its 15,603 followers on what it’s doing for the guitarist and offering an apology. On a side note, I really like the guy who handles United’s Twitter account. I hear he’s an intern that is leaving in the fall, so I hope United will find someone else to keep up the conversation.

Looks like they’re trying. But I still feel a response on Youtube would have been more apt, and saved this Twittering intern at United a few hundred replies =)

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]
Related Posts
  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    If I were United – I would have hired someone to write a song of apology and posted that, refunded Dave for his guitar, his trip, his band’s trip and then used the video Dave made as part of the baggage handler training program that stresses not only the value of the cargo that these guys are handling but the implications of not treating passenger’s baggage with respect.
    There are a million better ways that United could have handled this as I’m sure this conversation will uncover. It leaves me asking what I hope will not be the eternal question,” When, oh when, will organizations catch up to the consumer in realizing the power of social medial?”

    • http://simpliflying.com Shashank Nigam

      @Linda: Wow! I like that…. an apology from United in the form of an amateur music video would have probably got more press than Dave’s original song! I think United heard your suggestion and is planning to use the video in training (but I’m not sure how and for whom).

      I think airlines realize the power of social media, especially after incidences like these. But where they fail is to distinguish between the fact that social media is a conversation tool, as opposed to the broadcast mediums they’re used to from yester-years. The sooner they make this transition, the better it is for them.

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    If I were United – I would have hired someone to write a song of apology and posted that, refunded Dave for his guitar, his trip, his band’s trip and then used the video Dave made as part of the baggage handler training program that stresses not only the value of the cargo that these guys are handling but the implications of not treating passenger’s baggage with respect.
    There are a million better ways that United could have handled this as I’m sure this conversation will uncover. It leaves me asking what I hope will not be the eternal question,” When, oh when, will organizations catch up to the consumer in realizing the power of social medial?”

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    If I were United – I would have hired someone to write a song of apology and posted that, refunded Dave for his guitar, his trip, his band’s trip and then used the video Dave made as part of the baggage handler training program that stresses not only the value of the cargo that these guys are handling but the implications of not treating passenger’s baggage with respect.
    There are a million better ways that United could have handled this as I’m sure this conversation will uncover. It leaves me asking what I hope will not be the eternal question,” When, oh when, will organizations catch up to the consumer in realizing the power of social medial?”

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    If I were United – I would have hired someone to write a song of apology and posted that, refunded Dave for his guitar, his trip, his band’s trip and then used the video Dave made as part of the baggage handler training program that stresses not only the value of the cargo that these guys are handling but the implications of not treating passenger’s baggage with respect.
    There are a million better ways that United could have handled this as I’m sure this conversation will uncover. It leaves me asking what I hope will not be the eternal question,” When, oh when, will organizations catch up to the consumer in realizing the power of social medial?”

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    If I were United – I would have hired someone to write a song of apology and posted that, refunded Dave for his guitar, his trip, his band’s trip and then used the video Dave made as part of the baggage handler training program that stresses not only the value of the cargo that these guys are handling but the implications of not treating passenger’s baggage with respect.
    There are a million better ways that United could have handled this as I’m sure this conversation will uncover. It leaves me asking what I hope will not be the eternal question,” When, oh when, will organizations catch up to the consumer in realizing the power of social medial?”

  • http://www.winslowshire.com Gia Saulnier

    I believe that Mr. Carroll DID have a youtube announcement after he got so much attention to his first youtube video.

    I really like the fact that this once “unknown” musician is now famous because United was too lazy to do their first job of Customer Service. It makes me wonder how other Airlines will now treat their customers, as this lovely downturned economy goes, that is really where they need to start focusing their attention.

    I also like the fact that he is still getting more youtube hits and now makes me have that song in my head..(it is kind of catchy). Go Mr. Carroll!

  • http://Website Steven Mitchell

    “Why didn’t United respond using the same medium as Dave – social media?”

    My thought exactly. They still don’t get it. 3 million people (and counting) want to know what Dave has to say about UA. Not one of them, with the exception of the UA and agency folks in that tally, give a rip what UA has to say.

    A smarter, funnier, mea culpa could’ve helped change that.

  • ANANT

    No amount of apology from United could change the fact. Another video from Dave forgiving United Airlines could bring United’s lost ground, perhaps!

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    Re: Anant – I don’t agree – I think a sincere apology for both the baggage handling practices and their reluctance to bring the situation to an expedient solution and replacing the guitar would have made ALL the difference in the world – United dropped the ball (or the guitar in this case) and Dave has given them every opportunity to make amends and they ignored it.

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    Re: Anant – I don’t agree – I think a sincere apology for both the baggage handling practices and their reluctance to bring the situation to an expedient solution and replacing the guitar would have made ALL the difference in the world – United dropped the ball (or the guitar in this case) and Dave has given them every opportunity to make amends and they ignored it.

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    Re: Anant – I don’t agree – I think a sincere apology for both the baggage handling practices and their reluctance to bring the situation to an expedient solution and replacing the guitar would have made ALL the difference in the world – United dropped the ball (or the guitar in this case) and Dave has given them every opportunity to make amends and they ignored it.

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    Re: Anant – I don’t agree – I think a sincere apology for both the baggage handling practices and their reluctance to bring the situation to an expedient solution and replacing the guitar would have made ALL the difference in the world – United dropped the ball (or the guitar in this case) and Dave has given them every opportunity to make amends and they ignored it.

  • http://outtathegate.wordpress.com Linda (outtathegate) Johannesson

    Re: Anant – I don’t agree – I think a sincere apology for both the baggage handling practices and their reluctance to bring the situation to an expedient solution and replacing the guitar would have made ALL the difference in the world – United dropped the ball (or the guitar in this case) and Dave has given them every opportunity to make amends and they ignored it.

  • http://Website Pat Hartman, APR

    United blew it! But then most of the big businesses out there have blown it when it comes to customer service. Bad customer service seems to be a growing epidemic. Businesses can’t afford this type of bad publicity.

    I love the video, however, and must congratulate Dave on the creative way he expressed his discontent with United’s bad service. The “Friendly Skies” will probably never fully recover from this one. This is fair warning to companies that an unhappy customer can get his/her complaint heard all over the world thanks to the Internet.

    It’s too late for United’s senior management to fix this one, but if they have any brains, they will invest in customer service training for everyone employed by the airline!

  • http://Website Jeffrey Mitchell

    Dave Carroll shows the great power of what can happen when social media and the democratizing power of the internet are combined. In monitorring the situation, the perception has now been changed that United has poor baggage handling skills. The fact that they didn’t recompensate Dave Carroll the $1,200 for his Taylor Guitar is now going to cost them several million dollars in the long run in an attempt to restore credibility and lost ticket sales. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the share prices drop due to this event.

  • http://Website Mark Campbell

    What Carroll demonstrates is how the social media tools major corporations see as being essential and beneficial to them also have the power to put the screws to them. There are companies that lack the background or agility to get in and do it right. And they are left scrambling in reactive mode when someone like Carroll comes along.

    Really, it shouldn’t take a missive like this to effect change at United. The company has been in business for years and surely has some knowledge that there are unhappy individuals who can negatively shape brand perceptions in the public. And that knowledge should have led them to look at their customer service processes and policies to see how they can effectively and efficiently handle a complaint such as Carroll’s

    What has changed is that most of those complaints were by individuals who couldn’t really draw massive attention to their concerns or issues. Now, thanks to social media, they have more reach and clout than ever before. They can instantly connect with and galvanize thousands of other unhappy consumers willing to share their experiences. As a result, they can draw more attention and scrutiny to how companies conduct themselves than they could have managed in the past. All the more reason for companies to look at how they deliver customer service, and to determine how they can use social media tools in ways that engage and reflect the support of their true believers to balance such negative perceptions.

    I’m not saying companies must always capitulate to complaints. In fact, there are some commentators who have said, based on details in Carroll’s blog, that United did nothing wrong here. But the media and blogs I’ve seen have been more sympathetic to his situation perhaps because so many of us have airline horror stories to share, and he’s an individual up against a large company. Even so, perceptions are everything. Which means they need to give more consideration to how they address such complaints, and how they interact with customers in every medium in which they maintain a presence. Ultimately, be transparent, responsive and efficient when dealing with customers, or you may give someone like Carroll an ax to grind.

  • http://Website Paula Williams, PMP

    This is great, Shashank!

    And great minds think alike. :-)

    I posted an article this morning – Roasted in Social Media – Case Study – United Breaks Guitars http://www.aviationbusinessconsultants.com/?p=691

  • http://www.smallbiztwit.info Steve Moore

    Love the post and have shared with several local biz that I work with and let them get thier heads around the fact that they do not own their “brand” and complete message.

    If this keeps up which it will, Customer service should improve over the next few years. I wonder if anyone has thought of creating an award for the Brand that fixes the biggest snafu of the year via Social Media channels. Instead of the best outbound ads and commercials.

    I have a story about Delta that I need to get out…. I will wait the airlines have enough going on right now…

    Again thanks for great post

  • http://Website Name

    People here and elsewhere are being far too nice and still essentially dependent and petitionary. United should be brought down…driven to bankruptcy. With Twitter and other social media, traditional media coverage (televison, radio, press), etc., there is no reason for people to put up with this any longer. The company should be driven to its knees, destroyed, by an absolute, worldwide boycott of its product (flights) and destruction of its reputation. Customers have the power to go beyond just cheering Carroll and build upon their disgust with the poor service he and many others, in other ways, have received – to just *crush* the company. If United, or GM, or large banks, or other unresponsive, indifferent, greedy, lousy product/service companies can’t “get it” and snap to to do their *utmost* to turn on a dime and respond immediately and excellently to the market – or better yet provide this level of product/service in the first place – they should driven out of business.
    The market is not about forgiveness, or tolerance of indifferent, lousy service, or even ofmediocrity; it is about performance. With social media, these companies, their outrageously excessive executive compensation – especially given their dismal performance, but outrageous anyway – are no longer impregnable and can no longer be aloof or indifferent. People are being far too polite. These companies are toast. All the public has to do is start exercising it’s coordinated market power.

  • http://Website Vestniek

    This whole subject causes me to wonder: do airlines have a staff or even an individual whose job is to worry about the customer experience?

    Do they have an executive who comes to work thinking, “How can I make the people who bought our service today pleased with their decision?” or “How can we make the service so good they will want to buy it again and recommend it to their friends?”

    Do companies like airlines and hotels have such jobs in their work force?

  • Pingback: » Reality Check: Three reasons why legacy airline brands are dead (and who to look out for) - SimpliFlying || Aviation :: Branding :: Technology || Airline marketing, airline brand management, social media, Web 2.0()

  • Pingback: » SimpliFlying releases The Answer in response to “United Breaks Guitars” by Dave Carroll, the de-facto CMO of United Airlines - SimpliFlying || Aviation :: Branding :: Technology || Airline marketing, airline brand management, social me()

  • hawaiijobs152

    Well Post.
    For more jobs visit http://www.staffingpower.com

  • ridwanzero

    Affiliate Marketing is a performance based sales technique used by companies to expand their reach into the internet at low costs. This commission based program allows affiliate marketers to place ads on their websites or other advertising efforts such as email distribution in exchange for payment of a small commission when a sale results.

    http://www.onlineuniversalwork.com

  • KennethSPoodale

    Now that you know the different ways of filing personal bankruptcy, which method are you going to select? The new bankruptcy law does not require you to have an chapter 7 bankruptcy attorney, but it is in your best interest to seek the advice of an seasoned bankruptcy attorney. If you choose to file bankruptcy without the help of a lawyer, you will need to have to exhibit a lot of patience and diligence. Keep in mind and remember that when it comes to personal bankruptcy, you either liquidate your assets or you protect them.

×
Why SimpliFlying

×

Glimpses of SimpliFlying MasterClasses

×
SimpliFlying Social Media Outlook 2015

×

Airline Marketing Benchmark Reports

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
×

Crisis Communications Reports

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
×

Download the Free Report

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
×