Delta proved last week that it must have learned a thing or two from United Airlines' lack of response in 2008 to now famed passenger David Carroll when a flight crew broke his guitar after tossing it, prompting him to record "United Breaks Guitars." The song launched him into an Internet sensation and made him the poster boy for the power of social media when customers are wronged.
Delta averted such a crisis...but barely. After Delta passenger Dave Schneider's $10,000 vintage Gibson ES 335 guitar became crushed between an elevator service door and a rail on a loading dock, Delta agreed to pay him for the $2,000 in damages sustained to the guitar and also gave him two vouchers for free flights.
But Delta wasn't initially amenable to Schneider's initial claim to be reimbursed for the repairs, giving him the runaround by customer service, according to news articles. Schneider even sent two unanswered emails to CEO Richard Anderson. It wasn't until he posted about the experience to Facebook and Yahoo! News ran an article about the broken guitar when Delta contacted him to offer to pay for the repairs in full.
Conversely, Gibson proactively contacted Schneider when it caught wind of the story, offering repairs on the damaged 1965 ES-335 as well as a brand-new 50th anniversary reissue of a 1963 Gibson ES-335, free of charge.
Gibson reached out with proactive service that not only surprised and delighted Schneider, but set off a long string of positive word-of-mouth discussions through social media and media outlets. I'm sure Gibson would track positive results if it mapped its profitability from that one measure of proactive outreach to its recent revenue.
The Delta/Gibson story is a "good-guy" "bad-guy" example of how companies should and shouldn't handle customer issues, underscoring the need for companies to empower their employees to seek resolution for customers and highlighting social media's resulting power when customer complaints go ignored.
In a news article, Schneider summarizes the experience in a nutshell: "When a company obviously does something wrong, they should quickly find a fair solution...It's not about a guitar, or a musician; it's about making your customers feel good and trust that they are in good hands.