Dear United Airlines: Welcome to the club.
This week, United Airlines joined a growing list of companies that has been flamed for royally pissing off customers. The airline joins Motrin, Domino’s Pizza and other brands on the consumer Sh*t List.
In each case, the offending company experienced what I’ve termed the Social Media Double Whammy: The brand is criticized first for a bad decision, then again for a lack of responsiveness.
Motrin’s biggest mistake wasn’t an insensitive ad, it was ignoring the groundswell after the ad debuted.
Domino’s big mistake wasn’t a disgusting video, it was failing to respond to the video quickly enough.
Now, United Airlines discovers what happens when you’re unresponsive to customers.
United Airlines Pays the Piper for Broken Guitar
To recap, musician Dave Carroll was on tour with his band, flying United Airlines, when he noticed baggage handlers throwing his $3500 guitar. After trying for nine months to get United to take responsibility for his broken guitar, Carroll vowed to write a song about United’s dismissive posture. This video is the first of three from Carroll.
Had someone at the airline stepped forward to be accountable for the broken guitar, Carroll likely wouldn’t have written a song that would go viral. And it’s not like they had no warning — he tried for nine months to get the problem resolved.
No Whammies? Simple: Ackowledge Your Customers
Jeremiah Owyang has a pretty thorough list of brands that have been “punk’d” by social media. It’s a reminder of the perils of corporate social media — and of ignoring social media.
Remember that old saw about the squeaky wheel getting the grease? Ten years ago, companies could erect roadblocks in front of disgruntled customers. But thanks to simple self-publishing tools, any customer — no matter how small — can become a squeaky wheel.
Are there whiners and miscreants out there? Sure. But if your default posture is to treat every customer as a miscreant, you’re destined for trouble. It’s better to apologize quickly for mistakes and take your lumps than to stick your fingers in your ears. The Social Media Double Whammy could be twice as damaging.