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Dave Carroll: interview of a 12-million-view complaint champion

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"I suggest to people that we all have strengths and passions, that we can utilize to make a point when combined with social media."
Dave Carroll

Dave Carroll is known worldwide as the guy who paved the way for complaining in video. His famous “United breaks Guitars” video not only helped him resolve his complaint but it also scored more than 12 millions views on YouTube. This success empowered many to complain also.

Dave’s story is so unique that it deserved getting its own Wikipedia page.

We’ve dealt the whole week with complaining behavior and took the example of Kenny Martineau to understand the triggers of this behavior and how much it is linked to customer satisfaction.

We are extremely delighted to close the week with an interview of Dave where he gives us his feedback on Kenny’s story but also on the triad customer satisfaction / loyalty / complaints.

IntoTheMinds: In today’s world where companies claim to engage in personalized relations with customers, what do you think of this story? Which parallels do you draw with your own story?

Dave Carroll: Many companies are understanding the importance of engaging with their customers and that is a positive reflection of the times we are in. Listening to your customers and responding to them is essential today, as billions of people learn use social media to communicate their thoughts with the world and not only is it less expensive to retain the customer you have than to find a new one, resolving a customer dispute can result in creating an even strong brand advocate for a company. In my case, United was not responding or interested in resolving what I thought was a serious issue and was as surprised as I was by the reaction to my videos. The world has changed a lot in the last 4 years.

ITM: How did you emotionally feel in 2009 when you decided to shoot you now worldwide famous video?

DC: I felt extremely frustrated until I committed myself to making the trilogy of videos that are now up on YouTube. Once I set my goal to use my musical ability to share my story I felt empowered and released from the frustrating customer service maze I had been in. So, when it came time to shoot the first video 6 months later, I was in great spirits and focused on having fun and creating great content.

ITM: Don’t you think it’s an injustice that people have to be talented (like you or Kenny) to get the attention of millions of people and eventually get their complaint addressed?

DC: I had great success in a direction I have passion and experience with, which is music. I suggest to people that we all have strengths and passions, that we can utilize to make a point when combined with social media. What is the thing you love to do most, that never feels like work and time passes quickly when you’re doing it? That is the thing you should try to use to share your message.

That being said , my partners and I have created Gripevine.com to help amplify the voices of customers everywhere who are convinced they have no voice. This platform aims to resolve disputes quickly by being transparent, easy to use and inviting to companies to engage. Consumers can share ‘gripes’, rate and review companies and share these views with social media. It’s therapeutic and effective so I don’t believe that customers are as powerless these days. We have options.

ITM: Have you experienced other situations since then where you felt unsatisfied and wanted to go on Youtube again?

DC: I have been careful about trying to duplicate what I did with United breaks Guitars but I honestly have had good success resolving things fairly and fast when I’ve been dissatisfied. Sometimes it’s been because the company knows my video but many times it’s been because the company in question was effective and listening.

There was an instance around 2 years ago where I discovered, without question, that American Airlines had used my video as a training tool in an official capacity in NYC. That requires a license which they didn’t ask or pay for. I asked management for 75,000 in airmiles for the Children’s Wish Foundation in exchange for them signing a license for that use (which clearly stated they would owe me nothing more in the future) but they denied using it, and then paid a lawyer a lot of money to officially deny it and threaten to sue me. I don’t think they know how close they were to inspiring another music video or some social media response. Where they saw « confrontation », more responsible organizations would have seen « opportunity ». It was an extremely weak response on their part and, in the end, I decided that I simply won’t fly with them. Not ever. I do still fly United though ironically.

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Auteur: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Dr. Pierre-Nicolas Schwab is the founder of IntoTheMinds. He specializes in e-commerce, retail and logistics. He is also a research fellow in the marketing department of the Free University of Brussels and acts as a coach for several startups and public organizations. He holds a PhD in Marketing, a MBA in Finance, and a MSc in Chemistry. He can be contacted by email, Linkedin or by phone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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