“United Breaks Guitars” is a song that has gone viral on the Internet since its release on 17 July 2008. The case of the “United Breaks Guitars” is a classic example of the power of the Internet in affecting reputations of organizations that do not offer effective customer care services. One of the customers of United Airlines, Dave Carroll, had a bad experience on his trip because employees of the airline broke his guitar. When he complained about it, the management of the airline ignored him. After a period of nine months, the management told him that they could not compensate him because the period of filing a complaint had elapsed.
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Owing to dissatisfaction, Dave Carroll decided to compose the song “United Breaks Guitars” as a way of revenging the treatment the employees gave him instead of compensating for the damaged guitar costing $3,500. The song has made a great impact on the reputation of the airline and customer care because it has attracted about 13 million viewers to date. The main causes of the crisis are the poor handling of the customer’s property and deprived public relationships. The crisis calls for effective decision criteria, which solves the crisis, satisfies the affected customer, prevents future occurrences, and restores the reputation of the airline.
Situational crisis communication theory and model of ethical problem solving are useful in determining the decision criteria for solving the crisis. The theory and model are instrumental in crisis management as they provide a useful framework in implementing the criteria. Additionally, diminishing, bolstering, and compensation are among the alternatives that the airline can employ to restore its reputation successfully and solve the crisis. Diminishing and bolstering the problem increases the harm on the airline’s reputation because the information held by viewers is concrete, and the company cannot deny them.
Conversely, the suitable solution for the problem is compensation as it focuses on compensating the aggrieved client and facilitates the restoration of the airline’s image. The choice of compensation is effective since the crisis falls under a preventable cluster, and thus, requires an emphasis on the victim. Since compensation, provides a solution to the present and future occurrences, it serves as a long-term solution that the airline can employ in handling similar occurrences.
“United Breaks Guitars” is a song that expresses dissatisfaction with Dave Carroll, one of the clients of United Airlines, who complains about the broken guitar. During one of his flights, the employees of United Airlines mishandled his guitar and broke it. As a result, the affected client raised a complaint to the management of the airline and received poor treatment. The song asserts that people should not use the airline because it breaks guitars.1 The conduct that employees demonstrated in handling the valuables of the client led to a challenge of reputation and image of the airline.
The aggrieved client decided to express his complaints concerning the damage of his guitar through YouTube, a factor that had a serious impact on the image of the airline. Although the company tried to overlook the complaint, the client warned them about the step he would take if they failed to compensate him accordingly. Therefore, it is against this background that the report analyses the case of the “United Breaks Guitars” with a view of identifying causes of the issue and examining appropriate strategies and solutions.
Poor Handling of Customer Property
The case of United Airlines demonstrates a situation where the company ignored the safety issues regarding the manner of handling customers’ luggage. The manner of handling the guitar of the aggrieved customer portrays a level of ignorance and arrogance on the part of employees. The concept of valuing customers and their properties is imperative in any organization since it determines its success or failure.2 Poor handling of customer luggage, which in this case was a $3,500 guitar, initiated a series of complaints from the customer. Due to the ignorance, arrogance, and poor handling of the guitar, the client eventually used a video to express his complaint, a factor that had a serious impact on the image and reputation of the airline.
Poor Public Relations
According to the customer, the employees of the airline were reluctant to handle his complaint. Due to the reluctance, the customer had to make several trips to their offices in a bid to resolve the issue. After 9 months of fruitless trips to the offices of the airline, the manager brushed off his complaint. The issue of poor public relations in the airline is evident from the several trips that the client made to its offices and the manner in which the manager handled his complaints. Poor public relations is a factor that generates crises among individuals in organisations.3 As a result, he decided to express his concerns through YouTube posing a serious threat to the image of the airline.
The video that the client posted online after the airline failed to address his grievances had a significant impact on the image and reputation of the company. As a result, the video occasioned a crisis in the airline that required urgent measures to address it and rebrand its image to its potential customers. An effective decision criterion requires the use of theories such as situational crisis communication theory (SCCT), which facilitates good problem solving.4 In addition, the model of ethical problem solving addresses the crisis that transpired after the customer was mishandled. Therefore, the theory of situational crisis communication theory and the model of ethical problem solving are important in development of effective decision criteria for the crisis.
Situational Crisis Communication Theory
Situational crisis communication theory (SCCT) advanced by Timothy Coombs, explains that effective management of the crisis requires an equation of the responsibility, the magnitude of a reputational threat with the kind of solution. The equation helps management of an organisation understand the level of the crisis and the required solution that best addresses the problem occasioned by the crisis. According to the theory, it is important for managers to identify the crisis and check the type of crisis, as well as its history as it facilitates efficient problem solving.5 The effective solution of the problem is important because managers and the company receive increased understanding of the crisis management.
The theory explains some of the challenges associated with poor crisis management, which include reputational threat and distrust from the affected individuals. The clusters include accidental, preventable, and victim types of crisis clusters. Unintentional incidences that take place in the organisation fall in accidental cluster, whereas preventable cluster transpires if the organisations place the rights of individuals at risk knowingly and tampers with their property. Victim cluster of crisis happens when an organisation becomes a victim of a crisis. Some of the strategies that the organisation can employ in solving a crisis in an organisation include a diminishing, compensation, and bolstering.6 These strategies help the organisation develop a good decision criteria used to solve organisational crisis.
Model of Ethical Problem Solving
The model of ethical problem solving presents a six-step model of solving a problem or a crisis among individuals. According to the model, the first step requires an intensive and succinct analysis on the presence of ethical issues that present a state of dilemma in the crisis. Identification of values and ethical philosophies is essential for practical crisis management.7 Moreover, the step facilitates an enhanced understanding of the magnitude of the crisis. The second step in the model helps in the identification of values that are important, as well as the involved ideologies. The step elucidates the crucial nature of assessing competing values in line with shortcomings and meanings that they exhibit. This assessment is important in solving problems that occasion among individuals.
In the third step of the model, the individuals involved in problem solving rank competing philosophies or values basing on their level of relevance. An analysis of values takes place to ascertain the reasons for using or rejecting them in crisis management.8 After ascertaining those values or philosophies, which the management can employ in crisis management, the management then designs an action plan. The action plan is the fourth step in the model, which requires the management to abide by the priorities of values indicated in the third step. The fifth step comprises implementation of the action plan. Cultural competences, sensitive communication, and skilful negotiation are crucial during this step of crisis management. The sixth step encompasses a concise reflection on the implemented action plan and its outcome.
The alternatives required by the airline need to address the crisis, restore the reputation of the airline, and the trust of potential consumers. Some of the measures that the airline can undertake are to diminish the issue, bolster the problem, or compensate the client. Diminishing the problem is a strategy that the airline can employ to solve the problem in the short run. The strategy of diminishing the problem incorporates an affirmation to the consumers that the problem in question is not as bad as it seems.9 The affirmation aims to reduce the nexus between the crisis and the organisation. In this alternative, the airline portrays the problem or crisis as minimal and less damaging as opposed to the relayed information about the crisis. Remarkably, the alternative requires a concrete backing by credible evidence, which enhances the trust of potential customers.
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Through the alternative of bolstering, the airline can remind its potential consumers of the good works that it has delivered in the past or informing them about the good image that it has in the market. The act of reminding or informing clients about airline’s past good works employs a strategy known as bolstering and helps the airline reduce the extent of damage that the video has caused.10 Bolstering reduces customer perceptions and increases their knowledge concerning the airline’s reputation. However bolstering will not provide a long-term solution since the damage caused by the video may drive any potential first consumer from using the airline and only serve to sustain its repeat customers. Compensation is a strategy that emphasises on the customer affected. The strategy focuses on redressing the problem by effectively compensating the affected consumer, whose guitar was broken
To address the crisis effectively and restore its reputation, the airline needed to undertake a strategy that satisfies the affected customer without straining its budget and prevents future occurrences. Furthermore, the strategy should have been satisfactory to the affected customer and the potential customers of the airline since it aims to restore its image in the market. Diminishing and bolstering are not appropriate alternatives because they are not only short-term strategies, but also they do not focus on the need of the customer. Therefore, a compensation strategy is appropriate because it aims at addressing the affected customer in a way deemed suitable by all the parties involved and helps restore the image of the airline in the short- and long-term.
Implementation and Implications
The airline has to involve the aggrieved client and inquire about his preferred method of compensation. The airline and the client need to agree on the method that is not only suitable in solving the present problem, but also in prevention of similar occurrences. After agreeing with the customer, the airline has the mandate of executing the agreed method of compensation. The compensation has significant implication on financial and managerial aspects of the airline. Managerial implication outlines the keen supervision of employees to ensure that they treat customers properly to minimise similar incidences in future. Financial implication refers to the reduced costs incurred by the airline in marketing its products since the satisfied customer will remove the video and eventually market the airline to other potential clients. Thus, the customers of the airline would increase following the enhancement of its image among potential customers.
Carroll, Dave. United Breaks Guitars. YouTube. 2009. Web.
Claeys, An-Sofie and Steven Cauberge. “Crisis Response and Crisis Timing Strategies, Two Sides of the Same Coin.” Public Relations Review 38, no. 8 (2011): 83-88. Web.
Cooombs, Timothy. “An Extended Examination of the Crisis Situation: A Fusion of the Relational Management and Symbolic Approaches.” Juornal of Public Relations Research 13, no. 4 (2001): 321-340. Web.
Desivilya, Helena, Anit Somech, and Helena Lidgoster. “Innovation and Conflict Management in Work Teams: The Efects of Identification and Task and Relationship Conflict.” Negotiation and Conflict Management Research3, no. 1, 2010: 28-48. Web.
Olsson, Eva-Karin. “Crisis Communication in Public Organisations: Dimensions of Crisis Communication Revisited.” Journal of Contigencies and Crisis Mnagement 22, no. 1 2014: 1-45. Web.
Slabbert, Adrian. “Conflict Management Syles in Traditional Organisations.” The Social Science Journal 41, no.1 (2004): 83-92. Web.
1 Dave Carroll, Dave. United Breaks Guitars. YouTube. 2009. Web.
2 Dave Carroll. United Breaks Guitars.
3 Helena Desivilya, Anit Somech , and Helena Lidgoster. “Innovation and Conflict Management in Work Teams: The Efects of Identification and Task and Relationship Conflict.” Negotiation and Conflict Management Research 3, no. 1 (2010): 42. Web.
4 An-Sofie Claeys and Steven Cauberge. “Crisis Response and Crisis Timing Strategies, Two Sides of the Same Coin.” Public Relations Review 38, no. 8 (2011): 85. Web.
5 Timothy Cooombs. “An Extended Examination of the Crisis Situation: A Fusion of the Relational Management and Symbolic Approaches.” Journal of Public Relations Research 13, no. 4 (2001): 335. Web.
6 An-Sofie Claeys and Steven Cauberge. “Crisis Response and Crisis Timing Strategies, Two Sides of the Same Coin,” 87. Web.
7 Adrian Slabbert. “Conflict Management Syles in Traditional Organizations.” The Social Science Journal 41, no. 1 (2004): 87. Web.
8 Eva-Karin Olsson. “Crisis Communication in Public Organizations: Dimensions of Crisis Communication Revisited.” Journal of Contigencies and Crisis Mnagement 22, no. 1 (2014): 15. Web.
9 Adrian Slabbert. “Conflict Management Syles in Traditional Organizations,” 89. Web.
10 Timothy Cooombs. “An Extended Examination of the Crisis Situation: A Fusion of the Relational Management and Symbolic Approaches,” 325. Web.