Myth: The average unhappy customer will tell 10 people about the poor service he or she received.

One of the top marketing research firms in the country, TARP, conducted a study for Coca-Cola in 1981 and found that a median of 10 people heard about a bad experience for a small ticket packaged good. Despite the fact that subsequent studies showed that the magnitude of word of mouth varied by product, price and industry (people would tell 16 people about a negative auto repair experience, for example) a rule of thumb evolved in marketing circles that an unhappy customer will tell 10 people about the poor service he or she received.

On July 6, 2009 Canadian musician David Carroll and his band, Sons of Maxwell, blew the lid off that rule by uploading a song onto YouTube that chronicled a real-life experience of how his $3,500 Taylor guitar was broken during a trip on United Airlines in 2008 (please click on video, below):

At the end of the first day the number of views totaled 150,000 and three days later on July 9, it had amassed 500,000 hits, 5 million by mid-August, and today (April 7, 2011) it has received 10,233,487 hits! So how is this incident related to Asset-Based Marketing? In my marketing approach we believe that one of a company’s three most important assets is its customers. Considering that it is five times as expensive to win a new customer as to keep a current customer … creating a corporate culture where employees are committed to continuously improving customer satisfaction simply makes good business sense.

From the baggage-handling crew throwing guitars on the tarmac to subjecting David Carroll to a nine month, fruitless claim process, it’s obvious that United’s corporate culture was anything but “Fly the Friendly Skies”. Corporate culture is what happens when management isn’t looking. Hopefully the managers at United have taken a look at David Carroll’s video and changed their ways by truly embracing a customer centric attitude; because as of today over 10 million YouTube visitors have been told “I should have flown with someone else or gone by car because United breaks guitars!”

One Response to “Myth: The average unhappy customer will tell 10 people about the poor service he or she received.”

  1. Rick McMaster says:

    I am starting to know how it feels to be in the minority. Airlines need to offer insurance for certain precious things like this. It just feels too much like entitlement — companies owe us a good price and perfect service 100% of the time?? Stuff happens and sometimes stuff happens and we dont’ even have somone to blame.

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