When Poor Customer Experiences Go Viral


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The intention of the this post is not to bash any of the companies involved, but to highlight how easy it is for one poor customer experience to go viral and influence fellow customers’ (or potential customers) perception of a company. Here are three scenarios that should serve as case studies of just how easy a bad experience or a poor customer service response can spiral out of control.

United Breaks Guitars YouTube Video. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5YGc4zOqozo) This might be the most famous viral poor customer experience video ever uploaded to YouTube. When musician Dave Carroll’s guitars where broken, he created a song to express his frustration with his customer experience. As of 7/16/2010, there have 8.8 Million views of the video.

Nestle and Facebook customer backlash. (http://news.cnet.com/8301-13577_3-20005101-36.html) Greenpeace launched an advert aimed at Nestle to change deforestation and sustainability practices around their use of palm oil in their products. The video went viral and consumers made their opinions known by ambushing Nestle’s Facebook page to sound off. Although Nestle responded with a new zero-deforestation policy that will make its use of palm oil 100% sustainable by 2015, the consumer backlash on Facebook created a huge stir and a PR nightmare for the company.

AT&T Cease and Desist Warning. (http://attepicfail.tumblr.com/post/657942563/update-chopped-a-few-seconds-off-the-audio-file) When iPhone developer, Giorgio Galante, sent an email to AT&T’s CEO Randall Stephenson to voice his displeasure over wireless data plan changes, the company’s legal department called to issue a cease and desist warning. Unfortunately for AT&T, Giorgio recorded this phone call from AT&T’s legal team and posted it online. It went viral and AT&T quickly had to issue an apology (http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/bus/stories/DN-stephenson_04bus.ART0.State.Edition1.1abe7ff.html).

All three of these companies are Fortune 500 companies with very structured customer service teams and processes. It’s not to say that they always deliver poor customer experiences. In fact, there are surely countless positive customer experiences that you never hear about. Customers are more (socially) empowered and all it takes is one bad experience that goes viral.


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