CXO

Peter Cochrane's Blog: United breaks guitars?

Customer service has changed forever

Compiled at JFK Airport whilst waiting for BA 178 to fly me home via London Heathrow. Dispatched to silicon.com via a free LAN connection in the BA lounge.

I just boarded an early morning shuttle bus from my hotel at JFK airport. Barely awake, I heard the driver call for airlines and terminals. Someone piped up "United" and the immediate rejoinder from the rest of the passengers was a chorus of the song "United Breaks Guitars".

What was this about?

In case you haven't heard, musician Dave Carroll says his $3,500 Taylor guitar was recently damaged by United Airlines baggage handlers. They supposedly refused to accept any responsibility and to compensate him, so he wrote a song and filmed a video about the experience - which he posted on YouTube. It's since been viewed more than five million times.

The full, sorry story of Dave Carroll's prized guitar and his attempt to get reconciliation can be read on his website.

It seems Carroll was more than just ticked off because he has just released a second video devoted to Miss Irlwig, the last United employee to rebuff him. It's as humorous as the first.

Carroll is now promising a third video to make a trilogy of the whole encounter. During the whole process Carroll managed to get substantial press and even national TV coverage.

I suspect it has done his music career no harm whatsoever, too.

This has to be the most galvanised and effective demonstration of a 'market of one' ever. It is also an exemplar of the influence of the individual over a powerful international company, especially in the online world where anyone can communicate with millions of others so easily.

I suspect it will be widely reported on, studied and included in the curriculum of all the major business schools very shortly.

I just love human creativity at all levels, and this just started my day with a smile and a song!

About Peter Cochrane

Peter Cochrane is an engineer, scientist, entrepreneur, futurist and consultant. He is the former CTO and head of research at BT, with a career in telecoms and IT spanning more than 40 years.

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