Twenty-five years ago, companies that gave failed to live up to a customers expectation would often receive an angry letter from the customer. Their customer service department could ignore the letter, and that would be the end of the story.
The customer might tell a few friends. For the most part, large companies like airlines could get away with delivering poor service. As consumers, we had little power to hold them accountable.
But with the advent of social networks, discussion boards, Twitter, and Youtube the tables have turned. The video below is one of my favorite examples of a consumer exercising his power. United Airlines damaged musician Dave Carroll's guitar. After nine months of seeking compensation, he gave up. He wrote a song and created a video that has been viewed more than 73 million times. With 41,000 ratings and 25,000 comments he has been able to reach more than a few friends, demonstrating the shift in the balance of power to the consumer.
This is a public relations nightmare for the airline, with no way to stop it. In addition to the video, I found more than 70,000 articles listings and links in blog posts and news sites including the Huffington Post to the NY Times,
‘So what should United Airlines do? How does a large company use social media to respond? Once the video was released the $1,200 which would have made the problem go away six months ago, was not enough. As Mr. Carroll explains: I've been done being angry for quite some time and, if anything, I should thank United. They've given me a creative outlet that has brought people together from around the world.
By the way, only moderately successful as a musician, the song has turned Mr. Carroll into an overnight success, with a promising career talking to groups about customer service.