Social media pulls corporate culture out of hiding

Companies can no longer hide poor management practices from the world

If you're choosing between two airlines that cost about the same for your next flight, would you go with one that has a reputation for destructive baggage handlers, cold, unsympathetic flight attendants, and unresponsive customer service departments? Or would you prefer an airline that encourages on-board celebrations with customers?

I've come across two YouTube videos, both with millions of views, that puts experiences on two different airlines to music. On the first, a musician, Dave Carroll, provides an account of how airline baggage handlers wreaked havoc with his luggage, breaking his guitar in the process. Flight attendants were indifferent to his pleas, and United would not even respond to his follow-up requests to be compensated.

On the second video, an Southwest Airlines attendant breaks from the usual humdrum announcements about turning off electronic devices and so forth and gets the passengers to join in on a catchy rap -- here's an excerpt:

If you have a seat on a row with an exit, I'm goin' to talk to you, so you might as well accept it.

You got to help evacuate in case we need you. If you don't want to, then we're going to reseat you.

Before we leave, our advice is... put away your electronic devices...

Fasten your seat belts, then put your trays up, press the button and make the seat there raise up.

Sit back, relax have a good time, its almost time to go so I'm done with the rhyme.

Thank you for the fact that I wasn't ignored. This is Southwest Airlines, welcome aboard!"

Now, after viewing these videos, which airline would you be more likely to select for your next trip?

All you can think from the videos is what an incredible place Southwest must be to work. And what a dismal, downbeat place United must be.

I personally have had plenty of positive experiences on United. And being related to a former employee, I know there are many dedicated employees who do go out of their way to help customers. And, I'm sure Southwest slips sometimes in customer experiences. But that's not what's being communicated across social media, to global audiences.

You certainly don't need "business brains" to see the huge impact social media videos such as this could have on brand perception -- and ultimately sales. But it takes business brains to address the underlying issues that cause lousy episodes of customer service, which may include lack of adequate training, or a lack of motivation due to resentment. Shaun Rein did an excellent piece in Forbes speaking to such underlying problems at United.

And it takes business brains to foster a positive, innovative corporate culture that gets customers to start rapping and celebrating alongside your employees. This doesn't happen spontaneously.

There's a real bottom line to corporate culture. Companies can no longer hide their poor management practices from the world. Corporate culture matters, and corporate cultures are no longer private matters. In the age of social media, instances of mistakes, missteps, and mediocrity are quickly communicated to global audiences. At the same time, the world loves to see and share outstanding examples of organizations that know how to get people up on their feet and dance.

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