Be Nice to Your Guitar (and Your Customers)

This morning I listened to a live webinar put on by John Bernard of Mass Ingenuity. He spoke about how the combination of social media, cloud computing and the millennial mindset (not wanting to wait for anything) are combining to change the ways companies interact with their customers in ways so profound that it is difficult to comprehend the changes how the new marketplace works. He said that we have moved from the era of mass production into the era of mass customization, where products and services are more tailored to customers’ needs. He especially mentioned how meeting customer needs through good service is more important than ever.

Bernard cited United Airlines’ baggage handling service miscues in the case of musician Dave Carroll as an example of how companies should not respond. In case you haven’t heard, Dave’s $3,500 Taylor guitar was destroyed during one of his trips on United Airlines and he went through months of troubles with the company to try to get them to rectify the situation. Things finally turned his way after he wrote a song (complete with music video) about his troubles that became a huge hit on YouTube. There are actually three videos in the whole series. Here’s the first one:

It’s true that some people write bad things about a company just to advance their own agendas. In the past, the companies might be able to ignore them and the problems would go away. However, with the speed that information gets passed around these days, it is imperative that businesses monitor what is being said about them in social as well as traditional media (that reminds me, I need to Google ‘Caffeinated PDX’ to see if there’s anything being said about it. Hold on a minute, I’ll be right back. . . . . Okay, we’re good for now). While it is impossible to know everything that is being said about your company, you must take care to monitor the problems and put out any fires before they get going too strong.

Although I question Bernard’s claim that this one incident with United led to an $180 million reduction in market capitalization for the company, his point was a good one. Customers have more power to expose companies’ misdeeds than in the past, so companies must be more alert and responsive than ever. Of course, those of you with your own businesses already knew that, right?