Tag Archives: United Airlines

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?