Dealing with complaints is never an easy task, and given the “mass open forum” that social media is, we are seeing more and more people offer their opinions and dissatisfactions with various individuals, brands and companies alike. Negative comments can hinder these brands overall reputation, and they are facing an even more daunting task in that the negative comments can be seen by anyone. The days of private complaints are coming to a close. There was a time when a brand was so successful it didn’t mind turning a cold shoulder to someone w
ho experienced some dissatisfaction with the product. But when that complaint goes public (hence social media) it’s substantially harder to ignore.
A recent issue came about when United Airlines baggage handlers broke a customers guitar. The “victim” took an aggressive approach and attacked the brand on all accounts, even producing a viral song and video about his dissatisfaction with the handling of his guitar. United Airlines initially did nothing for the man, and didn’t show much consideration to his unfortunate circumstance. Considering this man was gaining support for his claim, United should have seen that and addressed the situation to prevent it from spreading. Since they did no such thing, they are a prime example of what can happen when negative publicity hits the masses.
What United Airlines should have done is offered a sincere apology and compensation to this passenger, because he was victim of their negligence. If I was responsible for managing United Airlines online reputation, this is exactly what I would have done. He would receive a personal phone call with an apology, and a way to come to a viable solution in response to his property being damaged. I feel when this consideration is shown to the man, he will be less prone to make produce other publicly negative comments on the brand. When someone pays for your service, and you fail to meet the ethical standards (especially from a company the size of United Airlines) you have to make amends in any way possible.
Once an understanding could be mutual with this client, I would then take to the social airwaves to offer a reputation enhancing comment, such as, “We have solved the ‘United Breaks Guitars’ issues, and we guarantee that this will never happen again.” I would then set up a link to that post that was directed towards the blog, to which I’d add:
“This is an unfortunate and unacceptable act on the part of our employees. We here at United Airways value our customers, their property and their overall well-being. Those responsible for this have been dealt with and we will use this situation to build a better and more responsible airline. We continue to value your support and confidence in our brand, and we will not disappoint.”
Customers are the backbone of any brand, and you have to be willing to listen, engage and resolve any issues. It’s vital to maintain a positive brand reputation at all times.