Tag Archives: reputation management

United Breaks Guitars? How I’d handle this creative complaint as an airline reputation manager

United Airlines’ customer service policy looks great. They have a whole page that links to other pages that are all dedicated to how much the company values and respects and serves their customers.

But there are those who claim United breaks guitars.

It’s hard to tell exactly where the complaint ends and the artistic license begins. Or maybe the whole video is true right down to the bag-kicking airline employees. I can’t say I’d be that surprised (and that’s not necessarily directed at United, just a comment on airlines in general).

But let’s put our past airline luggage issues aside and think about how one would manage United’s reputation when a video such as this is released.

Well, ideally the situation never gets to this point. Someone along the customer service line should have helped this poor gentleman repair or replace his guitar that was broken in transit from Halifax to Chicago when he originally reported it. (Unfortunately, in real life, they didn’t.) But let’s assume we’re past that, and the video is already published.

  1. We would likely have to do some research since Dave says he was bounced around to so many different people. It’s going to take more than a few minutes to fully resolve the situation, so the first thing we do is reply to acknowledge we’re listening. Something like, “Creative video, @DaveCarroll! But we know a broken guitar is no laughing matter. We’re looking into it immediately and will be in touch.” (I purposefully didn’t start with his handle, because since the video is going viral, we want to address it publicly instead of limiting the audience by putting his handle first.)
  2. So we find an answer (quickly!). It’s our fault, and we have the OK to offer Dave money to repair his guitar. We reach out to him again with more information: “@DaveCarroll, we’re sorry. We take responsibility for the broken guitar and want to make it right. Please DM your email so we can talk more.”
  3. At this point, we’ve paid Dave and apologized privately as well as publicly, and now we offer him an incentive to come back — he and his band fly free to their next event in exchange for a sequel song. This incentive paired with a lighthearted request repairs the relationship with this particular customer as well as creates new marketing material. We don’t try to cover this whole situation up. We accept that it’s happened, we’re proud that we’ve handled it well, and we use it as a “we’ve learned our lesson” slash “look how we fixed it” story in our marketing plan.

That’s what I’d do. How about you?


A customer’s complaint and a brand’s nightmare: The ethics of lost luggage

My mother always told me that it takes a lifetime to build a reputation but you can lose it in a minute (a Will Rogers quote, as it turns out). She was right — and the same applies to businesses.

You may remember this customer who brought negative attention to a brand.

British Airways Twitter complaint

Yes, that’s a promoted tweet. This guy was so angered by British Airways’ customer service that he actually paid to have more people see his complaint. It took British Airways eight hours to respond, explaining that their Twitter account was managed only during certain hours.  (Note: Although I don’t remember checking at the time, I’ve checked now, and British Airways does have management hours listed in its Twitter bio.)

Ultimately, everything turned out OK: The brand apologized and found the guy’s bags (which is what started the whole thing). But even though it’s basically over (although is anything really ever over on the internet?), let’s rehash things for ethics’ sake.

Was it ethical for the customer to buy a promoted tweet to air his grievances?

I actually think this may have been a little unfair. Did HVSVN try any other avenues prior to paying for the promotion? I think any dissatisfied customer should at least give a brand a chance to set things right before blasting them to their entire follower base — i.e., going the public humiliation route right out of the gate.  Try tweeting (without any paid promotion) at them, or Facebook messaging them, or filling out a standard complaint or contact form first. If you get ignored for hours or days or weeks (depending on your level of patience), by all means, go all out airing your dirty laundry.

What’s the ethical way for British Airways to react?

Reply quickly, even if you don’t have all the answers yet. It’s OK to say, “We are so sorry your luggage is not in your hands as it should be. We’re tracking it down, and we’ll keep in touch.” That’s way more comforting than silence.

Next, do something. Find the luggage and get it to the owner as quickly as possible. It’s his luggage; you lost it. It’s your responsibility to make it right, all the while communicating with the customer.

Some of you may disagree, but I think that’s where the company’s ethical duties end. If you find the luggage and it’s in one piece, you get it back to the customer and apologize for the inconvenience. But, one step further would certainly help mend the damaged relationship as well as build trust among your other followers.

Put yourself back in the customer’s shoes. You’re mad that the airline lost your luggage. But when you complained, they answered; they found the luggage and overnighted it to you; they apologized and offered you an incentive to come back — a free checked bag, an upgrade to first-class or even a free flight. Would you fly with them again? (I would.)