Musician Dave Carroll’s advice to companies: Respect your customers
Asmart company these days understands that everybody has a voice. So the best way to avoid a public relations nightmare is to give great customer service right out of the gate. “It’s a bad day when a customer’s upset,” says Dave Carroll, creator of the viral three-part musical trilogy United Breaks Guitars.I met Carroll just after his keynote at the annual conference of the Society for New Communications Research (I’m a senior fellow). Carroll gave a funny and wise blow-by-blow of the PR and customer support blunders by United Airlines after baggage carriers broke his Taylor guitar.
The incident has gone down as perhaps the ultimate self-inflicted customer relations screw-up by a major corporation in the social media era of empowered customers. The original video has been seen 8.8 million times since it went live a year ago and is the 12th most-watched video in the history of YouTube.
— Dave Carroll
“Companies providing poor customer service can’t ride out the situation as in the past,” Carroll says. United ran Carroll through the bureaucratic ringer for 9 months before giving him a definitive answer about his compensation claim: No.
“I was almost out of options but I wasn’t because social media allowed me to express myself in a creative way,” he says.
In the interview, Carroll discusses his take on the idea of “a market of one” — the notion that today there are no statistically insignificant parts of the marketplace. “The market of one is everybody,” he says. Incorporating good customer service should be part of a holistic approach to a company’s business processes — not because it’s right but because it makes sense from a competitive business standpoint.
As for Carroll, his viral hits on YouTube have helped juice his career as an independent musician and, now, a public speaker. CD sales are “through the roof,” he says, and he’s fielding offers to play gigs and to write songs. (The trilogy has taken on a life of its own: see Taylor Guitars’ video response and UBG Song #3.)
All in all, great fun — and definitive proof of how social media has shifted the balance of power toward customers and away from arrogant multinational corporations. (For another example, see Greenpeace’s takedown of Nestle this past spring.)
JD Lasica is founder of Socialmedia.biz. We work with large and mid-size businesses and organizations on social media strategies and optimizing your online presence. Contact JD by email, follow him on Twitter and Google Plus or leave a comment below.