Online communication sets customer service high

Unhappy customers are finally being heard and listened to 8212; through the Internet, that is.

For too long, giant companies have had the power to silence customer complaints by simply dismissing them. That is no longer the case, as power has abruptly shifted into the hands of the customer who uses the Internet 8212; our generation’s biggest tool for broadcasting information.

Witty, sassy and unsatisfied customers are now grabbing hold of the megaphone that social media gives them to voice their opinions 8212; and rightfully so. Businesses must now learn to track their products’ complaints and praises through the multitude of posts on social networks.

An example of this is in the case of Dave Carroll and his broken, $3,500 guitar. Carroll reached maximum frustration as United Airlines baggage handlers broke his precious instrument through their careless tossing.

The company denied Carroll compensation for his guitar. He then turned around and cyber-smacked them a new one by posting a music video on YouTube about his experience.

His music video, “United Breaks Guitars,” has received more than 9 million hits. In addition, one of his follow-up videos reporting on the lack of progress has received more than 1 million views.

In Carroll’s first follow-up video, his lyrics speak to United Airlines, claiming that he would be satisfied “if you’d just come to your senses, accept the consequences of you letting a certain baggage handler smash my property.” He goes on to state the amount his guitar repairs will cost as well as the name of the employee with whom he is frustrated and who has ignored him. Following with no less drama than expected, Carroll’s second music video ends with a van labeled “United” driving over his guitar, reversing and driving over it again.

Responses to Carroll are numerous on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. This trampled guitar episode demonstrates just how much damage a single person can whip up against a company if he or she is willing to put in the creativity and the time.

A plethora of other examples exist, including the outrage against the noisiness of the SunChips compostable bags. Some consumers commented that the new bags were not good for the environment as they produced “noise pollution.” The results of the complaints? Frito-Lay’s removal of the bag from shelves.

What ultimately will come from the recent computer conversations is better customer service. Companies are now forced to realize that customers can and will take a stand and will communicate their strong opinions via the Internet. Companies should be aware of the new online critiques and consider them a positive tool to better understand their customers’ desires and evolve their products and services.

I recall several years back when a friend’s mom was essentially cheated by her electricity company. She e-mailed dozens of her friends to no longer use the company’s services. This woman also contacted the local company and told them what she was doing. They ultimately refunded all of her money.

This new approval and disapproval system of the Internet is taking the mom’s outdated phone-a-friend system to a whole new dimension. The more interaction there is between consumer and company, the more motivation to better the product. All in all, this phase has the potential to advance America’s production quality to an all-time high.

Sammy Key is a junior English and Spanish double major from Tulsa, Okla .