I’m at a conference for my real job (yes, oddly, I have a real job), and one of the speakers this morning showed a clip of the annoying United Breaks Guitars video from a little while back, and mentioned how companies (and airlines, in particular) need to be careful because nowadays consumers can respond online when they have bad customer service.
Yes, people can respond online. But as I mentioned a week ago, airline (and hotel) bashing has become so ubiquitous that I would argue it has absolutely no value at all. Think back to when United Breaks Guitars came out, and how every “expert” was out there saying that United’s exec team must be freaking out blah blah blah blah. I would venture to guess that somewhere between zero and zero people made an airline ticket purchase decision based in any way whatsoever on the video and the incident it describes. None.
There would certainly appear to be zero financial impact on the airline directly attributable to the video. In fact, I would fall into the “any PR is good PR” camp and suggest that this got people talking about United, and in a commodity business, that may actually (and oddly) be a good thing. For all of the endless and incessant complaining about airlines, there is no indication whatsoever that customer service factors into flight decisions. I have never seen a study showing this, nor spoken with an airline exec who has any evidence for it, or , to be honest, spoken with a customer who has actually paid more money to avoid a certain airline because “it sucks.” It doesn’t happen.
Oh yes, people will say, “I avoid flying Delta” or whatever. But that simply isn’t true. As we’ve mentioned here before, depending on whether you’re flying for business or pleasure (ie, who is paying for it), people choose a flight because of frequent flyer program, price and schedule. That’s pretty much it.
So the next time we hear about some supposed customer service disaster in the airline industry, just remember that it doesn’t matter.