Everybody has had a bad customer experience at one time or another. It used to be that you’d tell your friends, report a company to the Better Business Bureau or maybe even write a letter to the editor at your local paper and hope it gets published. These days it’s easier than ever to make your voice heard. Whether it’s on a site like Yelp, Angie’s List or just Google comments, people’s voices carry a much longer distance now.
Enter Dave Carroll. Dave is a singer/songwriter and the lead of The Sons of Maxwell, a band I’ve never heard of until this morning. In the spring of 2008 Dave was traveling with his band and had a connecting flight in Chicago. Dave and his band were sitting on the O’Hare tarmac, waiting for the baggage to be loaded. A passenger in front of them, who probably didn’t know who Dave Carroll or The Sons of Maxwell were, looked out the window and shouted out about how there are some United Airlines baggage handlers “throwing guitars” out there! After a year of phone calls and cold shoulders and no restitution, Dave wrote a song…
I first heard about this on WGN radio in Chicago this morning during a promo for the John Williams Show. Williams later linked to the video from his Facebook status feed and I watched it. And I must say, it is one of the most creative and funny ways to get back at a company for busting your Taylor guitar.
Will United Airlines respond to this? Probably not. Will they care that there’s this video out there? Fairly unlikely. Will thousands and thousands of customers and potential customers see and be influenced in some way by it? Absolutely.
What if your company or organization was the one being targeted?
This brings us to one of the most important, and also most overlooked aspects of social media marketing: reputation management. Obviously, in this instance United Airlines clearly should have stepped in long ago and provided better customer service. Some might argue that they didn’t provide any customer service at all. But lets pretend your company has a disgruntled customer and even though your company has acted ethically and quickly, this person still feels the need to spend time creating a blog or YouTube videos about how he feels he was treated unfairly. What will you do?
The first step is catching it early. Monitor postings, blog entries, news feeds, comment forms and sites like Twitter constantly. An easy way to do this is through Google Alerts which will send you an e-mail every time a key word or phrase shows up anywhere on the Internet. That alone won’t catch everything but it’s a good start. Then get out there. Present your side of the story, be fair, honest, open and most of all extremely polite and respectful — no matter what was said or what tone was used. The golden rule is this: picture anything you write, either on a website or e-mail, posted everywhere with your picture next to it. If you can’t be proud of your stance then you should just keep quiet. Come back to it when you’re calm. It can be difficult at times, especially if you have a customer who is either just pain wrong, or worse, wrong and belligerent.
Don’t wait until something bad happens to become involved in social media. Having an active and happy online customer base will go a long way to helping you resolve issues. With any luck some of those customers may even stand up and help defend you. Remember, some people just need to be unhappy. Stay on top of the situation and minimize it’s impact before it grows out of control — or into a catchy song complete with a music video.