When a customer complains to an organisation, that complaint should be treated like a gift. After all they are telling you that something about your product or service is not living up to your brand promise. In essence they are telling you how to make your company better and for free too!
And chances are that issue is something other customers have experienced yet they may not have complained but just quietly chosen to take their business elsewhere.
There is plenty of research to support the fact that if someone has a great experience with a companies brand (the product or customer service) they will tell on average 8 people. However if that experience is a bad one they will tell on average 22 people and then who knows how many people those people will tell. The rise of social networking sites has now however, blown those statistics out of the water. Tell 22 people about your bad experience. Nah…make that over 3.6 million as United Airlines has found out.
To cut a long story short, a United customer, while sitting on one of their planes, witnessed out the plane window, United staff throwing his guitar and those of his fellow band members, around on the tarmac. One of the guitars was broken in the process so the band complained to United and got nowhere. Said gentlemen were telling United that some of their ground staff need an attitude and behaviour readjustment if they wanted to keep customers happy – but were they interested? No.
No doubt these guys told 22 of their friends of their poor experience but they also went one better, making a music video about their experience and posting it on YouTube.
And how many people have viewed this video and are now aware of Uniteds poor service and in particular their response to this issue. Not 22, not 2200, not even 22,000 but in fact over 3.6 million people have now viewed the video and it has even been featured on CNN.
This is the new power that is in consumers hands – the ability to share brand experiences, good and bad, with a virtually unlimited number of people as our social connectivity just grows and grows. And organisations need to learn fast how to manage this and realise that in fact a complaint is a gift and a great way of managing your brand reputation.
Marketers should know that word of mouth is rapidly becoming the most powerful sales and marketing tool for a brand and while companies may feel they have limited control over this, smart organisations are trying to manage it two ways – by ensuring they deliver on their brand promise and by joining the conversations. The power to sell brands has indeed shifted to the consumer through what appears to be an emerging 5R’s – raves, rants, ratings, reviews and recommendations!
Watch the ‘United Breaks Guitars’ video on YouTube and then think about how you feel about United Airlines. What could have cost them a $1000 for a new guitar has probably now cost them several million in lost revenue.
Many thanks to Grant Costello from On Brand Partners in NZ for this material.