Respect for one’s brand comes from performance… performance at each and every interaction and touchpoint.
Fail to perform and treat each interaction with the utmost of care and, well, in United Airlines’ case you risk having a disillusioned customer write a song about his poor experience, make a video and post it on YouTube for all to hear and see.
That’s what Dave Carroll and his band Sons of Maxwell has done. Last year, as they sat on a plane at Chicago’s O’Hare, they saw United Airlines baggage handlers tossing guitars to one another. They immediately reported what they saw to three United employees, but each refused to do anything about it.
Sure enough, when they arrived at their destination, Dave’s guitar was smashed.
He tried… for MONTHS… to resolve the issue with United and have them pay the $1,200 repair cost, but to no avail. The airline refused to pay.
So Dave and the band composed a song about the experience called “United Breaks Guitars,” put a video together and slapped it on YouTube.
When “United Breaks Guitars” became a big hit and drew attention from the major media networks, United suddenly changed its tune, saying the song had “struck a chord” with them. A director of customer service apologized to Dave and even asked if United could use the video for internal training.
Here’s a question though… Why did it take a YouTube hit for United to do the right thing? Why didn’t United recognize the legitimacy of Dave’s complaint from the get-go?
What we have here is an outright failure to perform… from the blatant carelessness of the baggage handlers and the shrugging of the shoulders by employees at O’Hare to United’s refusal to make things right for months afterwards.
The lesson is clear: in brand building, every interaction and every touchpoint counts… and employees at every level can make a difference, whether you’re lugging luggage and guitar cases or addressing customer complaints.
Another lesson: every customer voice is important, especially in today’s digital age when experiences and feelings can be shared in an instant and spread far and wide.
United, you really crashed and burned on this one.