11 July 2009 • 2:00 pm

Viral Video: United Breaks Guitars

Weekend lazy post.

You’ve got to hand it to musician Dave Carroll. When United Airlines admitted that they broke Carroll’s $3,500 Taylor guitar, but refused to compensate him for the damage, he know how to respond. In Carroll’s words (emphasis added):

In the spring of 2008, Sons of Maxwell were traveling to Nebraska for a one-week tour and my Taylor guitar was witnessed being thrown by United Airlines baggage handlers in Chicago. I discovered later that the $3,500 guitar was severely damaged. They didn’t deny the experience occurred but for nine months the various people I communicated with put the responsibility for dealing with the damage on everyone other than themselves and finally said they would do nothing to compensate me for my loss. So I promised the last person to finally say “no” to compensation (Ms. Irlweg) that I would write and produce three songs about my experience with United Airlines and make videos for each to be viewed online by anyone in the world.

Well, Carroll has made good on his promise. Enjoy the result below. As of this writing, his first video has been viewed over 1.6 million (update: nearly 3 million, as of 15 July) times on YouTube.

As a frequent flier on United from my home base in Chicago, I can only cringe with sympathy for Carroll’s experience. While the overwhelming majority of my million plus miles on United have been flown without incident, the few bad and occasionally awful experiences have been far more memorablethan my countless experiences of United’s courtesy and professionalism. Of course, United has responded. Carroll has since recorded a video statement, in which he acknowledges United’s tardy offer of “some compensation” and asks that United donate it to a charity.

The culture of an organization drives the behavior of its people as much as or even more than its policies. In this era of Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, texting, and blogs, your customer’s bad experience becomes your public relations nightmare in no time at all. Is your organization ready for your customer’s viral video?

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