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Gary Lemke - Blog

Calling Guitar Man

I have been receiving quite a bit of response to my on-going analysis of the Guitar Man's story. If you haven't kept up, now's your chance to catch up with my thoughts as well as the thoughts of Dave Carroll - the real life Guitar Man. My purpose in revisiting the story is not to take sides of who is right or wrong. Rather, I'm hoping the gift of time allows us to understand what really changed as a result . . . and what you can do to better your customer experiences.
I've discovered a group of vocal respondents I want to address today. I segment these respondents into a distinct group because they share these characteristics: 1) they are extremely pro Guitar Man; 2) they feel I have unfairly represented the facts; 3) they attacked me personally, and; 4) they are not regular CRMAdvocate subscribers. In short, they see this as a battle between Guitar Man and Advocate Man. I'm envious I don't have groupies like that.
I find that quite unfortunate because I have no personal ax to grind. In fact, I applaud everything he is doing. He offers himself as a public figure with a voice. Going public means more responsibility, more scrutiny, and diverse opinions. Can't we discuss public stories in public? I hope Guitar Man and his followers can embrace social media as a platform for all opinions.
Last month, I reached out to Guitar Man asking for his input on this piece. No response. After I published, he wrote a response and I shared his unedited words with the entire CRMAdvocate community to make sure he had an equal voice. And I offered to have a phone conversation so he could have input on my continued coverage. He agreed to call me but never did. Mr. Carroll, the offer still stands. Call me.

Follow Gary Lemke on Twitter at @lemke.



Publish Date: November 9, 2011 10:02 AM

Title Disconnected

You learned why I think Guitar Man's big break happened when United broke his guitar. He turned down United's belated offer to pay for the repair of the Guitar but received two new guitars (thank you Taylor Guitars). At the urging of Guitar Man, United donated money to charity but negotiated a licensing fee for the use of the songs in corporate training. The biggest benefit was the platform from which to take his career in new and bigger directions.
The title - United Breaks Guitar - leaves me a bit perplexed. Let me explain. In my eyes, this is not about an airline's abuse of baggage. It happens and it's unfortunate it happened to a cherished musical instrument. But the story is about a passenger's frustration with the airlines deafness to his requests for compensation. In other words, there would have never been a song, YouTube video or social media wildfire if the airline had, within the nine month period of time between the incident and the promise to go viral, made restitution. It's not a matter of broken baggage as much as it is a matter of a broken customer experience.
But United Ignores Guitar Man just isn't a very good title. The Times newspaper reported that within 4 days of the video being posted online, United Airline's stock price fell 10%, costing stockholders about $180 million in value. It doesn't take a math major to figure out it would have been easier to pay a grand or two for repairs instead of losing millions in company value.
I won't argue that the airline's stock went down during that period. But was the decline really due to United Breaks Guitars? I doubt investors bought and sold the stock based on the video or the Guitar Man's story. By the way, other airlines experienced declines in stock price during the same period. Regardless, would a prior investment in social media have avoided the United Breaks Guitar saga from happening? United, what say you?

Follow Gary Lemke on Twitter - @lemke.



Publish Date: November 2, 2011 4:24 PM

Guitar Man's Big "Break"

There is still so much more to my post mortem analysis of the United Breaks Guitars story. And I have already received some great reader emails. One such email came from Dave Carroll . . . yes, Dave Carroll, the real Guitar Man. It turns out he doesn't like the name Guitar Man. Sorry Dave . . . it is a term of endearment with no intent of judgment or malice. By the way, I first used the name when your story broke in 2009.
What really changed was Guitar Man's career. Before the YouTube trilogy, Guitar Man was a singer/songwriter. Today, he still remains committed to his music with an expanded repertoire that includes the social media trilogy. And now he also spends time as a public speaker - billed as a modern day folk hero - for how social media has changed customer service. There is even a book in the works.
I applaud Guitar Man's initiative and creativity. I love his entrepreneurial spirit. I think he is doing great work on the speaking circuit (maybe you want to book him for your next event). So maybe United breaking his guitar was the best thing to ever happen to Guitar Man. That's my take. Do you agree?

Follow Gary Lemke on Twitter - @lemke

Publish Date: October 26, 2011 1:35 PM

Social Media Wildfire Fanned by Mainstream

We are now a couple days into the analysis of the Guitar Man as poster child for how customers can create a social media wildfire. His story seems to tell us that this changes everything meaning the voiceless, disgruntled customer now has a voice. And the message to corporations worldwide is "you better listen and act accordingly." It's a new world.
Yesterday, I shared more of the story suggesting that the airline wasn't as cold-hearted as we have been led to believe. Guitar Man had not done his part in requesting compensation. But the point of this conversation is not to try the case. There will be no judgment of guilt or innocence. Instead, we want to know what was accomplished and what did this really change.
Was it a social media wildfire? Any video that reaches eleven million views can arguably be called mainstream. Guitar Man went from obscurity to stardom because of his video. But how much of the fire was social media and how much was mainstream media? It turns out the piece was covered by print and broadcast - CNN, CBS, BBC, Wall Street Journal, L.A. Times, Chicago Tribune, Rolling Stones Magazine - which may have driven more views than online viral communication.
Did the airline remain silent? No. Media inquiries wouldn't allow that. They did not refute Guitar Man's story. They stated that they had called Guitar Man to apologize and "make things right." Guitar Man turned down the offer of money suggesting the money be donated to charity. It was. United said they would also use the video for employee training.
At the time, many suggested that United would suffer material financial damage because of the video. We'll explore that next. Stay tuned. 

Follow Gary Lemke on Twitter - @lemke.



Publish Date: October 23, 2011 3:21 PM

Wait a Minute, Guitar Man

You now have the Guitar Man's back story. And you have probably figured out by now that I'm going to tell you why the Guitar Man's story really didn't change everything vis-a-vis Social CRM as we have been led to believe.
As I build the case on what it did and didn't change, I need to share more information with you. First, the situation did not evolve in an 'Internet minute' as we have thought. In fact, the incident in question happened in March 2008 and the famous "United Breaks Guitars" video was uploaded to YouTube in July 2009. More than a year had transpired.
Next, Guitar Man's quest for compensation was denied because 1) he did not report the damage upon arrival, 2) he failed to report the incident within 24 hours, and 3) he did not show the damage to an airline employee. In short, the only thing the airline had to work with was the Guitar Man's good word.
I don't personally know Guitar Man nor do I have reason to believe he isn't the most honest of individuals. However, the airline has a right to protect itself from fraud. Therefore, a passenger making a claim has some responsibility to provide proof.
Now that you know more of the story, do you feel the Guitar Man was just to take his grievance to the media? I don't think so.  There is more to this story . . . stay tuned.

Follow Gary Lemke on Twitter - @lemke.

Publish Date: October 21, 2011 9:55 AM

The Guitar Man Back Story

Before we get into the analysis of the Guitar Man's impact on Social CRM, let's get a refresher on the story. I'm confident most of you have heard of Dave Carroll, aka Guitar Man and his unfortunate customer experience with United Airlines. But I'm even more sure that not everyone has heard the story and more importantly can recall the salient details.
The short story: From his airplane window, David Carroll witnessed the baggage handlers throwing his guitar on the tarmac causing damage to his $3500 instrument. He tried dealing with the airline for compensation with no success. So he promised to write and produce three songs about his experience. The trilogy found viral popularity via YouTube (google United Breaks Guitars).
The first song was viewed by more than three million people in the first week (current views stand at about eleven million) making it one of the most popular YouTube music videos. The overnight sensation was dubbed as a social media wildfire that caused reputational damage to the United brand. Experts held up this story as proof that the little guy now has a voice. David versus Goliath?
Now you know the story. Tomorrow, I will tell you the rest of the story. And you will also learn that while it changed things, it didn't really change the things it claimed. Most of you will be extremely surprised by what really happened.

Follow Gary Lemke via twitter - @lemke.

Publish Date: October 17, 2011 3:45 PM

Did It Change Everything?

In life, there are certain events or stories that change things as we know it. They become the poster child for the new way, the new world. Over the last few years, countless stories have been told about disgruntled and/or demanding customers who have flexed their newfound social network power. They now have a voice.
Speakers and pundits have proclaimed, “This changes everything.” It has created somewhat of social media wildfire, an impetus to do something social. And most organizations have done something. Now those organizations are trying to figure out if that something made a positive difference to the customer experience? . . . and to the bottom line.
I going to dig into the archives for a post mortem analysis on one of the more famous social media stories. His name is Dave Carroll. I call him Guitar Man. If you don’t know the name, perhaps you remember the song, “United Breaks Guitars.”
Do you remember the story and/or the song? I will tell you what impact this event had.

Publish Date: October 15, 2011 11:29 AM

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