Sweet sounds of massive social media word-of-mouth

9 Mar

When Dave Carroll and Sons of Maxwell created their ode to a smashed guitar they were writing a new chapter in social media conversation and massive word-of-mouth exposure.

In the spring of 2008, the Halifax band Sons of Maxwell was traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour. Carroll witnessed his Taylor guitar being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. The damage inflicted on his $3,500 guitar inspired a unique customer complaint.

Carroll decided to respond to an unsympathetic United with three songs and videos (1, 2, 3). In July 2009, the original United Breaks Guitars video gained over 10,000 views in the 30 minutes that it took to write this blog post. The video has since soared to 8,059,599 views.

As companies struggle to effectively spend marketing dollars, a massive word-of-mouth narrative that informs millions of people about your company in a very short time is gold. But a massive word-of-mouth narrative where millions of people learn something negative about your company in a very short time is a formidable foe.

Canada mopped up in the recent Olympics. Now the Canadian picker and his bandmates have produced the third song of their promised series and a customer care blog that could become a Canadian Consumerist.

Carroll’s customer care site summary clearly states:

One of the most annoying concepts far too many companies embrace when it comes to customer service is that of “statistical insignificance.” Their goal: “Get it mostly right, most of the time,” so that the number of customer service failures are so few in comparison to the number of satisfied customers or uneventful interactions that they are statistically insignificant (a.k.a., “not worth worrying about”).

What has United Airlines learned from this situation? If you are inspired to contact United Airlines regarding “customer service” expect your first two options be “praise or compliments” or “comments or feedback.” The welcome banter and legal summary wear you down before discovering option three – “complaints.”

It was easier to find this whistleblower page by a McGill University professor (alas, the usability of the page is like snaking though a long line in security).

The lesson learned is that customer service will not necessarily occur on your customer service platform or during your business hours.


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