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When will companies learn?


Awhile back I wrote a piece on trust, marketing and customer service about the interaction of new media and product marketing. Some companies have yet to learn the lessons of new media. United Airlines is one of them; after willfully damaging musical instruments and treating a customer like crap for a year, he decided to write a song about it.

As of this writing, 2000000 people have viewed the video and listened to the song. I was one of them. It is gaining at about 1 million per day; it is likely that tens of millions will see it.

I think one of the key messages that companies need to digest is that they are selling the entire customer experience. In the past, it was common to think of advertising, sales, and service as separate entities, and as you got further down the chain, the quality was allowed to drift further and further. Why not? After all, you’ve already paid for the advertising, you’ve already sold the product, so who cares if customer service goes down the tubes?

The old media objection to this trend was to assert that companies would lose repeat customers. It’s clear that this is true when you see what has happened to companies like GM, who have consistently lost market share. It’s not simply that they make inferior products, it’s that they make inferior products and treat customers like crap. That doesn’t hurt you so much on the customer’s first purchase, which is largely driven by advertising in the old media world, but you lose subsequent purchases.

The problem is, the old media equation no longer applies. When the customer experience is broken, even first-time customers will turn away from you. This is the hard lesson that GM is learning now, which has sent their market share into a dramatic death spiral. It’s a hard lesson that a lot of companies are going to learn. Computer companies, airlines, auto companies — if you treat the customer like crap, they are going to be Twittering, Facebooking, and Youtubing to hundreds of people. Then hundreds become thousands. Thousands become uncountable millions.

Do you really want millions of potential customers to form an opinion about your product based on a customer complaint? Maybe it’s time to pay $1200 to fix the dude’s guitar.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 2009-08-02 9:47 am

    My first reaction was “didn’t Tom Paxton do that song over thirty years ago?”

    I see that others remember that one, too, and have mentioned it on YouTube, HuffPo, etc.
    But little blogs need the comments.

    If you’re not an old-timer, you will hear/read Paxton’s song and likely be asking “what’s Braniff?” Which is sort of the point of your post.

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