The 'United Breaks Guitars' story has been back in the news recently following a series of posts by Gary Lemke of CRMAdvocate.com (Did it change everything? , Guitar Man back story & Wait a minute, Guitar Man), that provoked the 'Guitar Man' himself Dave Carroll to respond. Following Vladimir Dimitroff's take on the public debate last week, Carroll has responded to MyCustomer.com to clear his name.
I welcome the opportunity to share some of my views on the cultural changes that are needed in business to stay relevant in the age of social media. Before that however apparently I need to clear up a few things on the personal side.
Your defense of Gary Lemke
is admirable but unnecessary as he is a very intelligent man, doing a fine job defending himself. That being said, several people including me, judged his remarks about my integrity, my story, it's implications and lessons learned to be out of line. I applaud his right to a contrary opinion of the relevance of United Breaks Guitars but drew the line at the sliver-of-a-hint that I didn't have sufficient proof to justify going to YouTube with my story. That being said I have since had a pleasant conversation with Gary and he and I will be sharing ideas on how to improve customer experience, without an aggressive tone.
You did compare me to 'terrorists' and did differentiate between good customers who suffer in silence and the trouble making bullying brigade that you seem to feel I represent. Here's what you said in your own words: "My argument (see in detail there) is that fear only motivates for discrimination by the wrong criteria, giving preferential treatment to 'terrorist' customers and still ignoring the good ones who suffer in silence". It would be nice to think that everyone who reads your blog will hang on your every utterance and go looking to read more when you ask them to. The reality is that we don't, so say it the way you mean it every time.
Then you said: "While serious practitioners have been working (against unspeakable resistance) to change business philosophies, processes, practices and motivations, the bullying brigade revel in their power to inflict damage." Can I infer that you count yourself as a serious practitioner in the CS sphere and that I'm "a self proclaimed guru", or is there something in a past blog that will tell me what you really mean? For the record I don't claim to be an expert on customer service or social media, and some pretty intelligent people have said that we should run from anyone claiming to be a SM expert.
Again, I think you were talking about me but maybe I'm wrong. I am a customer who decided not to suffer in silence any longer. I told the truth about what happened in a song and people liked it because it resonated with them. If I'm not one of the good ones who suffer in silence, then I suppose that makes me something else? You can see why your words would imply this is the case.
Here's some good news though... we agree on a few things! We agree that companies are embracing social media out of fear of what one customer can do to their brand. Many companies are not doing it out of love, I agree. That agreement we share implies another point of agreement: that companies are in fact embracing social media because of the way some customers have used social media to compel companies to give a fair customer service response. I would be one of them and I'm glad we agree on that as well.
I believe fear is a good motivator as a starting point but I contend that really embracing social media offers opportunities to transcend the confrontational relationship of distrust and fear between those who make things and those who buy them. You and I disagree on the value of fear in an organization but I'll make the distinction between a healthy respect for the power of one person to share a bad experience and another person to maliciously set out to destroy a brand. Speed limits help ensure reckless drivers are kept in check. No one likes to get a speeding ticket but I think most people would agree that we're all better off if the fear of tickets is keeping reckless behaviour in check. Likewise, reckless companies with exceptionally poor customer service can be kept in check simply by the reality that consumers are able to expose bad service like never before.
Re: good customers vs bad: You call a good customer one who might use their feet and switch brands? I'd rather have a bad customer who tweeted their displeasure with my product so that I could reach out them, apologize if necessary and win them over with great customer service. This is called the "customer service paradox". Social media offers companies a chance to take an angry customer and turn them into evangelists for their brand (if companies choose to care enough and see the opportunity).
We also agree that a customer like me who uses social media to right a customer service issue will have better results than one who does nothing. I would also say the magnitude of the loss of 3 band members instruments on tour to Siberia warrants immediate attention. A lot rides on musicians arriving to a gig with their instruments (for themselves, ticket holders, promoters). While you seem to take issue with the fact that my problem may have gotten faster attention than someone who lost a suitcase full of clothes (and I'm not sure you're right) , I embrace the fact that the system worked – and I think we should now work towards ensuring it work for everyone.
This week I had an angry customer who said they bought a digital download of my album but only half of each song would play before stopping. I put myself in his shoes, realized how frustrating that would be and offered to mail him a physical CD at no cost (even though the cost is nearly double). I'm looking into if the trouble could be on my end. In all likelihood it has to do with his computer, as no other similar complaints have come in, but the customer was blown away with how quickly I resolved it, made it better than "just right", and this person will come back to buy again if he likes what he hears on the CD. Notice I didn't interrogate him to establish if he was lying or looking for a freebie. I'll weigh those risks against the likelihood that I can maybe create a long time fan of my music with one simple solution.
Vladimir, it would seem that you have a wealth of experience in the customer service market and it’s clear that you can support what you say. This new age of social media is a game changer though - and while some people are slower to adopt it or put it in perspective as just another tool to help companies deliver their promise, it will settle into a very good thing for all as it becomes more entrenched.
On a personal note l look forward to sharing news about the launch a new company I have co-founded called Gripevine that will help consumers and companies better use social media for the betterment of all. Since July 2009 my goal has been to help customers and companies resolve and avoid conflict. With Gripevine I am doing something about that. If you'd care to join me in focusing on solutions I'd be happy to continue a dialogue with you. Mudslinging however takes attention away from more important matters. I would hope we're all too busy to engage in that.
Cheers, Dave Carroll