In Defence of United Breaks Guitars

Dear Mr. Lemke:

In response to your recent blog: Wait a minute, Guitar Man, CRM Advocate

Your view that I was somehow unjustified to resort to social media without undeniable proof that my guitar was damaged during my flight with United Airlines is myopic and it reflects a much wider issue.  By implying that the primary concern of big companies must be to protect themselves from the fraudulent activities of their thieving customers, you invigorate a corporate culture of distrust and deepen the chasm between consumer and corporation.  Not taking responsibility for undeniably poor service today is precisely how big corporations are putting their brands at risk in age of social media. The fear and suspicion you are spreading in  “your take” on my story is potentially very expensive to big companies. Just ask United Airlines.

You are welcome to your opinion that my story and those like them are not having a lasting effect in the customer service field but in my experience and in the opinion of respected authors, bloggers, professors, learning institutions, and thousands of consumers who have reached out to me to tell me so, you would be wrong. The fact that huge corporations are now investing in social media can often be traced back to my video and other individual consumers.

Just two weeks ago a major airline lost our band’s instruments on the way to Russia.  Using Twitter, I let them know and within minutes they began a search for our instruments and were able to get them to us an hour before we needed them…in Siberia.  Before social media I believe they would have arrived late, if at all.  The result was a customer service recovery for the airline instead of a nightmare for them and our band.

I now travel the world speaking to corporate audiences about the need to remove the silos within their own operations and to embrace social media as a way to better connect with customers. It is through relationship building with customers that companies will prosper in the age of social media.  What you seem to be selling (distrust and resentment towards one’s customers who refuse to accept poor experiences) puts a brand on the fast track to irrelevance.

I assume, Mr. Lemke, that by the tone of your posting that you make at least part of your living advising corporate clients. So do I and you should know that I’m passionate about this new aspect of my career that attempts to undo what you teach with the profound belief that this will benefit both consumers and corporations.

It’s also worth pointing out that in your attempt to inform your readers about the backstory you were wrong on the facts in a few places. I can give you a point-by-point breakdown in a separate email if you’d find it useful but your readers should know that even United Airlines doesn’t question whether the facts occurred as they did. The airline chose to avoid compensating me by defaulting to their policy of requiring a claim to be opened within 24 hours of an incident  (something I couldn’t do for good reason). They have since apologized for that and have even paid me a license fee.  Why?  To pay for their right to show my video as a training tool to improve customer service with their airline and to improve the profitability of their operations.  Again, it would appear that even United would disagree with you about the power of one person to make a change in the age of social media. The fact that you have used me and my story for three consecutive blogs to raise the attention of your own work implies that perhaps even you don’t believe what you are saying.

I maintain that differences of opinion make for healthy debate but I would appreciate it if your facts were accurate with regards to me and my story and that, when speaking of me, you use my name and not the impersonal avatar-like moniker you created.  Dave or Dave Carroll, or even Mr. Carroll,if you’d prefer, are fine.  “Guitar Man” disguises the reality that there is a real individual behind my video; a man who values the integrity behind his family name much more than a $3500 Taylor guitar, and that’s saying something!

Yours truly, Dave Carroll
United Breaks Guitars

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