Thursday, June 9, 2011

What United Airlines Should Have Done

As we were looking at flights today, naturally, we noticed some flights by United Airlines. The first thing that came to my head was the catchy tune, "United breaks Guitars." Indeed, I doubt we'll ever fly with United--and I wonder how many potential customers share our opinion.

United failed in many respects. I learned that they eventually replaced Dave Carroll's Taylor Guitar. But how many people know that? Most only know his side of the story--the side that says that United Airlines breaks guitars.

How much money has United Airlines lost because of a youtube video? I wouldn't be surprised if that video has cost United millions of dollars.

Obviously, you can't put lipstick on a pig

First things first, United should have never broken the guitar. Second, United should have reimbursed Dave's money for the broken guitar after the first call. These are simple actions that could have saved the company lots of grief.

Had I been in charge of PR, this is what I would have done

The day is July 6, 2009. Dave Carroll has just posted his video to Youtube and I notice that it's getting social media traction.

First, I pick up the phone and call Dave. I offer him the deepest apologies I can muster and immediately offer to buy him a new Taylor guitar.

Then I offer Dave a free roundtrip flight to any vacation destination.

I also publicly apologize to Dave on United's Twitter account. I begin having meetings to get an outside consulting firm to help us improve customer service. I also meet about the baggage crew and how loading and unloading can be improved.

I publicly post that I'm performing these actions on the company blog. I even create a catchy infographic that shows how we're changing our baggage handling processes. I say "We're sorry, and we're fixing it."

If it makes sense, I ask him to visit the United Airlines headquarters in Chicago (a free flight to Chicago included, of course) and perform for the Chicago staff. I also offer to pay him somewhere around $20,000 to do the concert.

If he says yes and comes to Chicago, I then get an events team and a video team together. We shoot the entire concert and any conversations Dave has with the staff.

That video goes on Youtube. I tweet the video from United's twitter account.