While positive reports about your service will get out there over time and create new business for you, bad reports travel like a rocket propelled by hard feelings and anger. Most of your clients who have enjoyed your services will mention you to help out friends and colleagues, but they aren’t active unpaid promoters of your business. When, however, you have let someone down, not delivered on your promise, and have not made things right, their only recourse is to damage you as much as they can.
Studies have shown that when you do a great job, people might tell 3 other people. When you don’t, they will tell eleven others that you haven’t, and those eleven will tell three others because people like to spread the bad news as it helps empowers the disempowered and provides a way to strike back at ‘the system’.
What if you let someone down who owns a megaphone? That is what happened to United Airlines when they let down a touring band, Sons of Maxwell, when they damaged a $3500 guitar when it was tossed around by baggage handlers, an act they witnessed while waiting to disembark. United then passed the buck on responsibility, and after wasting many hours chasing their claim, the band gave up on United, but not on getting even.
The wrote a song about their experience and posted it in on YouTube. At the time of posting, this had been viewed over 2 million times!
The claim for repair of the guitar was $1200, but there seems to be a general policy with United, and probably with most airlines, to make it as difficult as possible to claim damages. Consider the damage in reputation that has occurred to United, and the pain is not over yet. The band’s leader, Dave Carroll, has written a second song (currently being videoed) and is writing a third.
Belatedly United are now looking what they can learn from this incident, examining practices that have obviously been entrenched for years. Will anything good come from it? Well this has made the band’s music become far more widely known and has probably been great for business for them. However, for United, my suspicion is that their spokesperson is just in damage control, and as soon as the fuss is over, it will be business as usual. Am I being cynical? Well the comment from United was from a PR flack not the CEO. You be the judge.
The message for business is that when you give poor service, anyone of your customers may own a megaphone. In fact, today everyone has access to this same megaphone, and if the message hits a chord (sorry about the pun), or a stereotype prevalent in your industry, it will spread before you know it and you will be considered guilty until proven innocent while everyone has fun at your expense.
So treat every customer as if they had their own megaphone so that if they decide to use it, they will just be singing your praises.
Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.
Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.
The Australian Small Business Blog