Pharmacy Lessons From a Viral Music Video

From a bad customer service experience, independent musician Dave Carroll learned valuable lessons that apply to independent community pharmacists.

In 2008, independent musician Dave Carroll boarded a United Airlines plane heading to Chicago, Illinois, from Halifax, Nova Scotia, while traveling to Nebraska with his band, Sons of Maxwell.

“We landed and were waiting to get off the plane when this woman sitting behind us said ‘They’re throwing guitars outside!’” he recounted at the National Community Pharmacists Association Annual Convention on October 20, 2014, in Austin, Texas.

The guitars belonged to Carroll and his band, which told 3 flight attendants how the instruments were being handled. The flight attendants ignored their concerns, insisting that the guitars were not their problem.

When the band arrived at their show in Nebraska the next day, Carroll found that his Taylor guitar was severely damaged. After the show, he opened a claim with the airline. After 9 months of calling 1-800 numbers, chasing different customer service representatives, and receiving rejections to his claims, Carroll was frustrated.

“After navigating a customer service maze, this woman informed me over email that the airline was not responsible for the damages because I didn’t open the claim within 24 hours of the flight,” Carroll said. “I told her that I wasn’t a lawyer, but that I did have other tools.”

He promised the representative that he would write 3 songs and create 3 music videos about the incident. Committed to his word, Carroll set out to write the first song, and with the help of his friends in the business, he recorded the song and filmed a music video. He uploaded the video to YouTube without any other social media strategy in place.

The video was called “United Breaks Guitars” and, by the next day, it had gone viral.

“I did an interview with a radio station and it essentially started a media frenzy,” Carroll said.

Over the next few months, he did interviews with newspapers, radio stations, and television shows. The video was the most watched music video for July 2009.

“Most of the media framed this as a story of the little guy taking a stand against the big corporations, but I don’t see it like that,” Carroll said. “My whole experience with this has been like an onion unraveling in terms of what it could mean.”

From the experience, Carroll learned valuable lessons about story telling, branding, and customer service—lessons that apply to independent community pharmacists, he said. While Taylor guitars saw the video as an opportunity, United did little to use the publicity to its benefit.

“You shouldn’t fear social media, but see it as an opportunity to connect with your customers,” Carroll said. “Tell your story and engage with your patients.”

His experience also represents the importance of independent business, he said.

“Larger companies are often limited by their volume, but every customer is statistically significant,” Carroll explained. “You are perfectly poised to deliver exceptional customer experience. You can make every patient that comes into your pharmacy feel important.”