Improve or Die- Avoid these Customer Experience Nightmares


It has been 9 years since the release of the now-infamous song “United Breaks Guitars.” The protest song detailed the customer experience nightmare singer-songwriter Dave Carrol experienced after United Airlines broke his guitar during a flight and refused to compensate him for it. The accompanying music video, uploaded onto YouTube in July 2009, amassed more than 150,000 views in one day and resulted in a public relations nightmare for the airline.

In an increasingly digital age, poor customer service experiences are often posted online, on review sites such as Yelp or on social media sites, particularly Facebook and Twitter. Sometimes, as was the case with “United Breaks Guitars,” these experiences can even go viral, reaching hundreds of thousands of people. This makes it more important than ever for companies to make sure they are providing excellent customer experiences. Current and potential customers can and will end their relationship with a company based off a viral video or post about a customer experience nightmare.

In the 9 years since Carroll released his anti-United anthem, one would assume that companies would have implemented better practices. One would assume that companies would have gotten better at handling customer service issues, in an attempt to prevent viral outrage if nothing else. Unfortunately, businesses, both big and small, have shown us that providing a good customer experience is still an uphill battle for them.

In 2011, Australian clothing company Gasp made headlines after a woman claimed that a shop assistant was rude and insulted her and her friends while they were shopping. After she sent an email to the shop’s manager describing the experience, the shop replied back to her telling her to stop wasting the shop’s time because she wasn’t a “fashion forward customer” and banned her from ever shopping there again. Following a news report of the incident, the story went viral and the company received a lot of bad press. The company issued a statement claiming no wrong doing on their part and thanking the woman for the free press they were receiving. The company let their arrogance get in the way of properly handling the situation and apologizing.

In 2013, Bank of America found themselves dealing with a customer experience fiasco after their automated Twitter response bot replied to a post with an image of Occupy Wall Street protest chalk art in front of a BofA building and a caption about being chased away by the police. The post tagged the company, to which the company replied with the generic automated response “Thank you for contacting us. How can we help?” The bank’s account continued replying with generic responses to people who commented on the original post. Though the company claimed they use ‘personal’ messages on posts they are tagged in, it appeared that an autoresponder was replying and the incident made the company appear impersonal and out of touch with the mobile customer.

Last year, United Airlines found themselves swimming in bad press yet again, after video of an altercation on one of their flights went viral. The airline called aviation security and had a man dragged, unconscious, off one of their flights after he refused to give up the seat he had paid for to an airline employee. The incident was recorded by other passengers and spread quickly via social media platforms, with many people calling for a boycott of the airline. A poll conducted by the New York Times showed that following the incident 79% of customers said that they would choose a different airline and 44% said they wouldn’t fly United even if the alternative flight options were $66 more expensive and took three hours longer. This incident showed a serious lapse in judgement pertaining to their customer experience and damaged the airline’s reputation greatly.

Outside of the aforementioned viral customer experience nightmares, companies are having small-scale customer experience problems on a daily basis. Customers have difficulty reaching companies and don’t get responses until hours later. Customers also find that often times companies do not actually resolve their problems. Everyday customer experience issues are a large part of the reason why Sears and Kmart have closed more than half of their stores over the past decade. Customers complained about the lack of employees in stores and the difficulty of the company’s rewards program. These small customer service issues have translated to thousands of lost customers and has badly hurt the brand. Sears Holding Company hasn’t been profitable in almost a decade and has lost billions of dollars. And while their poor customer experience isn’t the only reason for the company’s decline, it has certainly led to a loss of customers and hurt their bottom line.

Whether it be a globally known customer experience nightmare or the daily problem of handling customer service, it is clear that companies have to do better for their customers, or they may lose them altogether.

Tags: , ,

Categorized in: , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *