This past July I talked about how Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars” YouTube post had brought new strength and power to consumer complaints against corporations’ customer dis-service. The original song/video has had over 5 million views, and is now available on iTunes. This is an astounding amount of bad publicity, damaging mainstream media press coverage, and negative word-of-mouth marketing for United Airlines.

Yesterday, August 19, Huffington Post reported that troubadour Carroll has, as promised, released his second of three songs/videos about his year-long saga of trying to get United Airlines to pay for the repairs to his Taylor guitar, broken by UAL baggage handlers at Chicago’s O’Hare airport.

The lesson to learn here is that while the benefits of good customer service might take a while to become apparent, bad customer service gets noticed – talked about, and publicized – immediately, and widely, and repeatedly. Businesses spend trillions of dollars every year in all kinds of marketing programs and tactics to gain customers. And everyone claims that they understand the principle that it is easier and less expensive to keep a good customer than to constantly find new ones.

That said, then why do businesses persist in giving crappy customer care? Today’s media-savvy consumers cannot be brushed off as minor annoyances. They have global reach. As Carroll has shown, any positive results that a company might have been gained from all that marketing spend can be quickly negated in one stroke. Have you seen the United Breaks Guitars t-shirts people are wearing to the airports?

UAL will be spending marketing money on damage control for months to come. You and your business can avoid a similar image catastrophe by making positive, responsive, customer service an integral part of your marketing plan and business operations plan.

Steve Lange
Senior Editor
Palo Alto Software