In last week’s CRMAdvocate newsletter, editor Gary Lemke suggests that the “United Breaks Guitars” PR situation has not been a disaster for United Airlines although he points out that the discussion seems to be evenly divided.
Let’s say that he’s right. Perhaps you’re thinking that if the same thing ever happens to your organization, you might adopt the same strategy since it worked for United.
Not so fast. Unless you’re in the same business as United, a viral campaign such as this could cripple your brand and harm your cash flow much more so that it seems to have impacted UA. Here are three reasons why.
- Many of UA’s customers are locked into its loyalty program in such a manner that it would harm them through loss of miles to take their business elsewhere. (In short, frequent flyers are loyal to the loyalty program, not the airline.)
- Others have little choice in choosing their air carriers due to either price or scheduling.
- UA is big enough to be able to survive this incident, especially since customers have a lower expectation of airlines when it comes to lost or damaged luggage. Many may still fly, but like me they use carryon luggage.
I responded to
He quoted another reader who wrote in: “UAL is a major corporation that readily accepts that baggage gets lost, damaged, and otherwise mishandled. The video is light-hearted, the person affected, Dave Carroll, is a reasonable individual and he strikes a reconciliatory tone in the second video. If I was at United, and it rose to a level requiring a public response, this would present a fabulous opportunity to respond in kind.”
Another question I have is, “how many hours did UA employees spend on this and similar complaints?” Had they had a more customer-centric policy (think Southwest Airlines) wouldn’t they be saving thousands of dollars a year in payroll costs and avoiding negative publicity? Wouldn’t people be jumping at the chance to fly them as they do Southwest?
Bottom line, just because UA seems to have escaped this situation with minimal impact on its sales, that doesn’t mean that adopting their strategy would achieve the same results for you.