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Can You Hear Me Now?

by Rosanne D’Ausilio, Ph.D., President Human Technologies Global, Inc.

Do you notice that the longer it takes to solve a problem, the more likely it is to be escalated?

And the more likely it is escalated, the more likely it could go from the private to the public domain.

Today Social Networks have afforded customers a one-to-many platform to self-publish their customer service experiences--compared to the more traditional one-to-one way of writing a letter, sending an email, or calling on the phone.

"United Breaks My Guitar" clearly showed the significant customer reach of a bad experience and the high cost of that bad experience. 

If you don’t know the story…Dave Carroll couldn't get compensation for damage to his guitar – until he named and shamed the airline in a YouTube video.  If you haven’t seen it, here’s the link   And these are the number of views as of May 12, 2010: 8,520,117

On March 31, 2008 Sons of Maxwell began a week-long-tour of Nebraska by flying United Airlines from Halifax to Omaha, by way of Chicago.   On that first leg of the flight they were seated at the rear of the aircraft.  Upon landing and waiting to deplane in order to make a connection a woman sitting behind them unaware they were musicians cried out: “My God they’re throwing guitars out there.” The bass player Mike looked out the window in time to see his bass being heaved without regard by the United baggage handlers. Dave’s $3500 710 Taylor guitar had been thrown before his.

He totally got the runaround when trying to not only report it but get some resolution both in Omaha and Halifax.  Finally, when he returned to the Halifax airport he met with an Air Canada employee-- because United has no presence there--and that person acknowledged the damage, opened a claim number but “denied” the claim because Air Canada would not be responsible for damage caused by United employees in Chicago.  So the run around began again from Chicago, to Halifax, to New York, even India.

Six months had gone by and the guitar had now been repaired for $1200 to where it plays well but lost much of what made it special. He spoke to a customer service manager in India who promised to forward a note to have someone in Chicago contact him.  About 2 months later, he got an email denying his claim for various reasons that made no sense.
After nine months it came down to a series of emails and despite asking to speak to the person’s supervisor, the conversations ended with her saying United would not be taking any responsibility for what had happened and that that would be the last email on the matter. A final offer of a settlement of $1200 in flight vouchers, to cover salvage costs repairing the Taylor, was rejected by United.

Dave ultimately realized that as a songwriter and traveling musician he wasn’t without options. In his final reply to United he told them that he would write three songs about United Airlines and his experience in the whole matter.  His goal:  to get one million hits in one year.  As you can see above, he more than reached his goal.

This cost the company much much more than if they had replaced, repaired, or appropriately responded to him in the first place. 

Were you one of the 8 million people (so far) who saw You Tube?  And made a decision in that moment?  

Would you want to fly United now?  I certainly don’t, and won’t.

About the Author
Rosanne D'Ausilio, Ph.D., industrial psychologist, President of Human Technologies Global, Inc., specializes in human performance management for contact centers, providing needs analyses, instructional design, and customized, live, world class customer service skills trainings.

Known as 'the practical champion of the human, she authors the best-sellers, Wake Up Your Call Center: Humanize Your Interaction Hub, 4th edition, Customer Service and The Human Experience and Lay Your Cards on the Table: 52 Ways to Stack You Personal Deck, and hot off the press How to Kick Your Customer Service Up A Notch: 101 Insider Tips as well as her popular ‘tips’ newsletter on How To Kick Your Customer Service Up A Notch! available at Reach her at