Business Process Management Unplugged

Let’s unplug the technology, return to basics, and talk about how business process should be used to get and keep more loyal customers.

Archive for united breaks guitars

Social Media can be your best friend… or your worst enemy

Over the past few years social media sites such as Facebook, MySpace, YoutTube, Twitter and even your good ol’ blog here on WordPress have taken off.  And, organizations of all shapes and sizes have embraced this new form of connection with their customers.  But, getting tuned in to the social scene is no replacement for making sure you consistently strive to make your customers’ successful outcomes happen.

In early 2008, a band, Sons of Maxwell, flew from Halifax to Nebraska.  At Chicago O’Hare, a passenger on the flight to Nebraska noticed that the ground crew were “throwing guitars out there” on the tarmac.  When the lead singer, David Carroll, retrieved his guitar at the end of his trip, he find it damaged and useless.  What ensued was nearly a year long battle with United Airlines to get the guitar replaced.  After numerous phone calls from Chicago to India, his problem, many times, falling through the cracks at United, never got resolved.  In fact, United denied him any restitution whatsoever.

But, what David Carroll did after that should have companies quivering in the tweets!!!  He composed a song called “United Breaks Guitars” and posted it on YouTube on 6-July-2009.  Since that posting, the video has gone viral with over 2.9 million views.  United Airlines was placed in the unenviable position of having to respond, directly, to Mr. Carroll with after-the-fact reparations.  But, after-the-fact is too late and the damage to the organization’s reputation has already been done.  This kind of genie is impossible to get back in the bottle and it makes an organizations PR person’s job a living nightmare.

The lesson learned?  Social media can be a great tool for connectivity to customers.  But, if you fail to live up to your customers’ expectations for successful outcomes, you could become victim to a complaint letter broadcast around the world.  And, this cost in real dollars will certainly be far more than it would have been if you simply made sure that your customer’s outcome was successful in the first place.

Post script, I am going to publish a new page called “Unsuccessful Customer Outcomes” where, on occasion, I will post the most humorous, creative and egregious e-complaints as a museum, of sorts, and a reminder to all of us of what can happen when customers, armed with the social media tools of the day, are left with no other alternative other than an open attack on the organization.  Don’t let this be you.

Here’s the video for a little entertainment.

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