“The great difficulty is first to win a reputation; the next to keep it while you live; and the next to preserve it after you die.” Benjamin Haydon
When Canadian musician Dave Carroll flew with United Airlines in 2008, he didn’t expect his precious guitar to get broken. When he wrote his protest song “United Breaks Guitars” in 2009, in an attempt to get United to compensate him for his loss, he likewise didn’t expect the YouTube video to be a viral hit with over 13 million views.
Neither did United Airlines.
Shortly thereafter, United Airlines spokeswoman Robin Urbanski said the company would learn from this black eye by using Carroll’s video “for training purposes to ensure all customers receive better service from us.”
Fast-forward to 2013 and it appears United is attempting to make good on that promise. A mistake in the airline’s online booking system resulted in fares being offered for $0 plus $5 in tax for many domestic flights. Many customers jumped on the opportunity, some getting roundtrip flights to Hawaii for just ten bucks! A mistake by a United employee created an apparent windfall for its customers, but surely the airline would just cancel the tickets and issue an insincere apology, right?
Wrong! Shortly after the mistake was identified and fixed, the official United Twitter account announced:
“We’ve reviewed the error that occurred yesterday and based on these specific circumstances, we will honor the tickets.”
Wow! Had United Airlines actually learned a lesson about how to handle a reputation crisis? Instead of suffering the brunt of hundreds of angry customers, the company decided that the lifetime cost of so many detractors would far outweigh the expense of honoring the insanely cheap tickets.
United Airlines followed the advice of this, your last day: be better!
Transform your character
Much of what you have read over the past 30 lessons has been about ways to build, manage, monitor, and repair your online reputation. However, it always circles back to the quote from Honest Abe:
“Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.”
If you are to have any success building an outstanding online reputation then you must provide it with a foundation of excellence. Your reputation will only ever be as good as your character. If you do not focus on how you act, how you run your business, how you build your products, you’ll find that improving your online reputation becomes a game of Whac-A-Mole—just as you bop one reputation attack on the head, another one pops up.
As you study and implement the advice from the 30 lessons offered in this series, be alert, be focused, be committed, but most of all, be better!