Going Viral Is Often the Only Way to Get Good Customer Service

A man throwing his phone in a Youtube video
Minerva Studio/Shutterstock

Businesses often try their best to ignore customer complaints, but they have a serious weak point: social media. With enough views or retweets, anyone can pull the attention of even the worst corporations.

Well, maybe not “anyone.” It’s hard for the average person to go viral. And as a result, it’s hard for most people to get wonderful customer service that comes with a viral complaint.

The Beginning of Social Media Damage Control

Businesses spend a ton of time and money building up a good reputation. Whether they sell quality products at a low price, give back to their local communities, or hire celebrity spokespeople, the goal is to gain the trust and recognition of consumers.

But in the words of Sentium, “bad news seems to travel faster than good news.” In the age of the all-powerful internet, a website like “http://bit.ly/2WHo9kZ; can be set up and operational in about an hour.” A business could spend years building up a good relationship with consumers, only for that relationship to be torn apart by a viral complaint.

As an example, let’s look at the “United Breaks Guitars” video. In 2009, United Airlines baggage handlers broke a $3,500 guitar owned by a musician named Dave Carroll. Unsurprisingly, United Airlines refused to compensate Carroll for the guitar and made an effort to leave him in a bureaucratic customer service loop.

But Carroll had a trick up his sleeve. He uploaded the “United Breaks Guitars” music video to YouTube, and it quickly racked up more than a million views. While United made an effort to resolve the issue (after all, it was a PR nightmare), the damage was already done. United stock dropped 10% that month, and the viral complaint cost shareholders $180 million.

Wait, Businesses Don’t Really Care About Customers?

Over the last decade, businesses have had to deal with more and more viral complaints, from Patrick Stewart’s hatred of Time Warner to millions of complaints about counterfeit Amazon listings. Of course, as the internet continues to expand into infinity, these complaints will only grow more numerous.

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