In the past, conventional wisdom held that people who had a ‘good’ experience with your company might tell 1 – 2 others.

But, if they have a ‘not-so-good’ experience with your company, they would tell 7 – 9 people.

The point was made.  Do a good job and it’s no big deal.  In fact, it’s expected. “Whoa, you did surgery and the patient lived to tell about it?  That’s excellent!”.  See, delivering ‘the goods’ is expected.  And, rightly so.

But screw things up.  Drop the ball.  Smash the customer’s expectations like pumpkins on Halloween . . . and you open yourself and your company to a LOT of  problems.  And in today’s socially networked world, the truth that ‘bad news’ spreads quickly and widely is more true now than ever before.

United Airlines learned this lesson the hard way after after mishandling (no pun intended) a damaged baggage claim.

It seems a passenger, a musician named David Carroll from Nova Scotia, Canada had his rather pricey Taylor guitar literally destroyed by some United Airlines baggage handlers during a stop-over in Chicago, IL.  Here’s how the new media covered it:

Now ________ happens . . . bags do get lost and damaged.  (Heck, United lost my bags when I was returning from Hawaii a few years ago.  Took them about 8 months but I did get them back. And the contents were intact!  Go figure.)

Back to the guitar incident.

David’s request for ‘compensation’ for damages (literally!) were not ignored.  They were refused! By United Airlines.  So, David wrote a song and produced a video about the incident and put it on You-Tube!  It went ‘viral’ and the word about how “United Breaks Guitars” is now more likely what people think when they hear United Airlines than anything about ‘friendly’ skies.

Here’s the actual video that’s now been seen by millions of people because of the PR debacle at United Airlines:

According to one analyst, the stock of United Airlines dropped about 10% drop in value following the You-Tube video release. Roughly about $180,000,000!  That’s a lot more than the ‘cost’ of making good on a damaged Taylor guitar!

The problem isn’t that ‘legally’ United was within its rights to deny the claim for reparations.  It was.  The problem is that the moral compass of the airline, judged by the public (uh, that’s why they call it ‘public’ relations) was deserving of a stiff sentencing.  And they sure handed one expensive sentence to United Airlines.

POINT:
Today, the world is more connected than ever.  The ‘effort’ to spread news — good or bad — is so much easier than in times past.  That means you must be good to the hands that feed you.  You must treat your customers and clients with at least a modicum of respect and regard.  Why?  Because if you don’t, someone else — a competitor — WILL.  And if you get bad PR, more people will learn of your ‘crimes’ sooner.  And that . . . will not bode well for you.  So stay sharp!  Keep your customers happy and give them reasons to say ‘nice’ things about you and your business!

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