D Murali

Continue the online relationship

D. Murali | Updated on September 18, 2011

liquid leadership

In the Internet-driven economy, customer service is what will set your e-brand apart.

What happens when a guitar breaks? Music stops. Perhaps, yes, but a different music may in fact begin, as the tale of the Canadian singer Dave Carroll narrated in Liquid Leadership by Brad Szollose shows.

Carroll was changing planes in Chicago on the way to a professional gig, when he noticed two baggage handlers tossing instruments around out on the tarmac; and would later discover at baggage claim that his $3,500 Taylor acoustic was badly damaged. Adding to his frustration was the refusal by the carrier, United Airlines, to pay for the $1,200 repair, for more than a year. So, what did Carroll do? He made a video, ‘United Breaks Guitars,' and posted it on YouTube, the book recounts. “Once the video went up, it became an instant hit, receiving more than 3.5 million views. And here is where United did things right. Instead of forcing Carroll to take the video down, the company contacted him and made amends, by giving $3,000 to the charity of his choice.” The author points out how the airline, which did not pay Carroll initially because he had not reported the damage within 24 hours, now uses the video to train service reps on how to do a better job, take responsibility, and know when to bend the rules.

Underlining that United understands the online conversation, Szollose notes that reputations can be managed organically; and that a negative image can be corrected and even used as a funny example of what not to do, to ensure that it never happens again.

In the Internet-driven economy, the New Economic Order, consumers just want to get in and get out, and so customer service is what will set your e-brand apart, he adds. “Online consumers talk – a lot. If your stuff sucks, word gets around. If your stuff is great, word gets around as well… Seduction marketing is replacing real customer service. It's the follow-up that matters now, the continuation of the online relationship.”

More importantly, the book reminds us that the Internet is great for measuring a marketing campaign. If you are off target with your brand, assures Szollose, you will know within seconds that something is wrong, when conversation does not take place the way you anticipated. Another great thing about the Internet, he observes, is that when you make quality products or even correct a problem immediately, your customers become advocates overnight.

“Your goal is to get the people using your stuff, to start recommending it: great products first, great customer service second. Once that's done, the online conversation will take care of itself.”

Coherent discussion of a topic that is continually unfolding.

Published on September 18, 2011

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