Online Reputation Management and United Airlines


The assignment for this week asked us to respond to a very unique customer complaint against United Airlines.  This complaint is unique because the customer chose to create a song and YouTube video about their experience with the airline.  We are to respond to the complaint as if we were the Online Reputation Manager at United.

To me, this complaint is just like any other and should be handled as such.  Any attempt at getting “creative” with a response in order to match the creativity of the complaint itself will likely not be effective and will only draw more attention to the wrong-doings of our company.  People do not want to side with the airline on issues like these, so even the most creative response of all time will likely fall on deaf ears.  In fact, handling the issue correctly is in my opinion the only way United Airlines can potentially change this bad press into good press.

The first thing to do in this type of situation would be to reply quickly.  Ideally, we would want to reply in a place that is most visible to people watching the video.  I don’t really recommend replying in the YouTube comments however, so maybe a social media account for the band would be the best place to have a public response.  That response can be brief, but needs to acknowledge that we are listening and gathering information about how we can remedy the situation.  Respectfulness and human-esque-ness will be the characteristics of a good response that I would be looking for.

Courses of action should be to reach out in a way that encourages the complainer to give us more information about the situation.  Encouraging a private message from the complainer allows us to investigate the issue and take the conversation “offline.”  According to the video, this seemed to be an issue with baggage handlers, so appropriate action can include a promise to review handling policies and offer “refresher courses” to some of the employees at the questionable airport.

Compensation and “gifts” might be a good way to really turn the situation around for the company, but again, should not be done in too “cheesy” of a way.  Offering to pay for the flight that the problem occurred on might be a good idea or even offering to replace the guitar.  However, the most important elements of the response are the need to be quick and attentive.  The most appropriate “gimmicky” response might be to buy the musician some kind of special guitar, but I don’t know if the PR gamble is worth it.

What would you have done differently? 

Would you have gotten a little more “creative” with your response? 

What about buying a new guitar?  Maybe one of the same model; or something a little more “special?”


2 thoughts on “Online Reputation Management and United Airlines

  1. Thanks Thomas. I think you’re right in getting the balance right between friendly and conversational and still maintaining an aire of seriousness. Do you worry about compensation? Are you concerned it might encourage others to complain so publicly?

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