60 Seconds with Canadian musician Dave Carroll

60 Seconds with Canadian musician Dave Carroll

Canadian musician Dave Carroll composed a song about his experience with United after his $3,500 Taylor guitar was broken during a trip with the airline in 2008 and United refused to compensate him for damages. He launched a trilogy of music videos and his first video, “United Breaks Guitars,” was posted to YouTube on July 6, 2009 and quickly went viral. To date, the song has received over 12 million hits. Dave Carroll has since become a consumer advocate and public speaker on customer service and social media. He’s also written a book, “United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media,” which was published this year.

InsideFlyer
Why did you decide to do the “United Breaks Guitars” video?
Dave Carroll
I decided to make the trilogy of videos when United Airlines closed down the conversation and refused to take responsibility for the damage to my Taylor guitar. I was left with the choice to walk away or do something else and I chose “something else”.

IF
Did you have any idea your video would become as popular as it did?
Carroll
No, I didn’t. I was convinced that I could reach one million hits with all three videos combined because of the large number of poor quality, forgettable videos on YouTube with millions of hits. If I could make something that looked good, sounded good and made people want to tell their friends about it then surely I could achieve one million hits. I didn’t expect the reaction to the video to be as strong as it was though and that reaction fueled a worldwide media frenzy, much to my surprise.

IF
Do you think United has changed their customer service policy since your “United Breaks Guitars” video?
Carroll
I think that their employees are more aware of the potential dangers involved in not respecting their customers or their property and I think they may have empowered their front line staff to take responsibility so that situations don’t get out of control. On the whole though I’m not sure much has changed. UA management and employees have a strained relationship I’m told and that may be contributing to some of their problems.

IF
How has social media changed the way airlines and other companies interact with their customers?
Carroll
Airlines are monitoring social media much more closely now to prevent wildfires from catching them off guard. As more people use social media, companies are understanding the importance of responding in a timely fashion and using the channel by which the customer has reached out to them. That has forced airlines to adopt these new tools and the wise ones are being proactive in using them to build relationships and not just to respond to complaints.

IF
If a customer has a complaint that isn’t adequately resolved by the airline, what can they do?
Carroll
I cofounded a company called Gripevine to help customers amplify their voice on Gripevine.com. We ‘take the pain out of complaining’ and give consumers an opportunity to be heard and share their complaint in an atmosphere that companies are inclined to respond to. If you have a complaint that others can relate to, we all have a voice now in the age of social media.

IF
In your book, you said a company’s brand is “nothing more than the sum of the stories being told about it … and that those stories are shared by individual customers.” Do you think that is more true now?
Carroll
Yes, I do. When my video went viral those were early days for social media. Since then more options continue to emerge that offer consumers an expanded voice and ability to be heard. Creativity is still important and content is still king, but the potential to be heard has never been more available.

IF
What are some of the positive changes (both for you personally and in the business world) that came about because of your video?
Carroll
UBG renewed my faith in my music and my interest in living my passion for performing and writing songs. I have become quite busy as a speaker about customer service, branding and social media all around the world. I have since become a published author with my book “United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice In The Age of Social Media” and co-founded an Internet start up to solve customer service problems in the world. My life has completely changed.

IF
Do you have a favorite airline or hotel loyalty program?
Carroll
I’m a Star Alliance member and have enjoyed the benefits that come with being an elite flyer (like the extra baggage allowance and lounge access) but I have to say Aeroplan is a real disappointment when it comes to redeeming points for flights. For hotels I typically stay at the places I’m hired to speak and perform so I’m not really affiliated with a hotel program.

IF
Do you still fly with United?
Carroll
I have flown them on a few occasions and had both good and somewhat unpleasant experiences. Like a lot of airlines it depends on who’s working on the day you fly that determines your experience. It’s seldom the conditions that create the problems but more how we react to poor conditions that set the tone and everything that follows.

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