Bad month for United Airlines

Is customer service becoming more important every day? Or does it just seem that way, now that consumers have so much social media power at their disposal? (See Bad Day At The Beach.)

The video above, “United Breaks Guitars,” chronicles how the gentleman’s guitar suffered at the hands of United baggage handlers (see article). To United’s dismay, the video became a runaway YouTube hit.  Apparently, United doesn’t understand that it’s easier to make your existing customers happy than to find new customers. 

The song illustrates a customer service problem that seems to pervade the organization. United  just don’t seem to value their customers.

Case in point: Within the last few years, United Airlines rolled out “Economy Plus” with great fanfare. They presented it as a great opportunity for the flying public. But it only takes one brush with reality to see the truth: United is trying to squeeze every last cent from its customers — with punishingly uncomfortable seats if you don’t pony up extra cash for each flight segment.

My wife and I flew United on a cross-country trip last month. Every Economy seat was filled, while only a few of the Economy Plus seats were taken. (I believe they wanted about $40 extra per seat, for the privilege of being able to breathe in comfort.) The cabin was separated into two parts: The six or seven special ones in the front half, and the 100 or so peasants stuffed into the back of the bus.

Those of us in seats too tight even to open our computers did not see Economy Plus as an opportunity from the formerly great airline. From our cramped vantage point, it looked more like a scam.

The attendants wouldn’t even let the peasants sit in empty emergency-row seats.

We decided right then that United was our least favorite airline. Only our situation wasn’t as YouTube-able as Dave Carroll’s “United Breaks Guitars.”

When companies demonstrate that they don’t care about their customers, in the end, there’s not much the marketing people can do. But as Dave Carroll demonstrates, there’s a lot customers can do.

About Barrett Rossie @barrettrossie

Marketing manager that specializes in developing strategic messages that set brands apart, and bring their competitive position, benefits and brand personality to life. Visit me at View all posts by Barrett Rossie @barrettrossie

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