United Breaks Guitars

By now, you've probably seen or heard about the "United Breaks Guitars" video that was published a couple weeks ago by Dave Carroll, a disgruntled United customer. (We're publishing it here just in case you haven't seen it.)

There have been over 4 million views of this very clever and entertaining video. The song is even available on iTunes.

In the Groundswell, unhappy customers can share their dissatisfaction with millions. They can galvanize Detractors and even cost companies millions of dollars in lost sales and shareholder value. Remember Dell Hell or the Intel floating point disaster?

Now, as any frequent flier knows, airlines are far from perfect. (You wonder if their leaders sit around in conference rooms brainstorming ways to piss off customers.) But airlines do have "pockets of advocacy." They do have customers who know they're trying to make things better and are willing to recommend them.

So how should United and other airlines respond to this kind of public flogging? Well first, they should fire or at least severely reprimand the baggage handlers who abused Dave's guitar. Second, they should buy Dave a new guitar. (And maybe arrange a meeting for him with Eric Clapton or one of Dave's guitar heroes.) And third, they should identify and mobilize their Advocates to spread positive Word of Mouth and sales.