Hospital Marketing: Don’t Let a Patient Complaint Become a Big “Hit”

It’s been said to never get in a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel. Now it must  be said “never get in a fight with a consumer who knows about social media.”

Social media wordcloud glowing

United Airlines broke Dave Carroll’s guitar. He was a member of the Canadian band, Son’s of Maxwell, and was traveling from Canada to Nebraska for a week of touring. At a change-over in Chicago, baggage handlers damaged his $3,500 guitar. Carroll repeatedly reported the problem and sought $1,200 payment for repairs. United stonewalled and refused to accept any responsibility. Why not? Carroll was just a two-bit musician and United was a very large corporation. Why should United care? He couldn’t hurt them. So why pay the $1,200?

Getting no satisfaction, Carroll wrote a song, “United Breaks Guitars” and placed it on Now the video has been played over 3.5 million times on the website.

It used to be argued that you never get in a fight with a newspaper because they buy ink by the barrel and therefore there’s no way you can win. Now in this consumer-based economy, never get in a fight with anyone who knows how to use social media.

What does this have to do with hospitals? It’s clear. No patient complaint can just be shrugged off and ignored. The consumer has power and if they feel they are being ignored, can and will, use “free” media to seek revenge. Customer satisfaction now must be given a much higher proximity (Shouldn’t it have always been a top priority?). Each dissatisfied customer has the ability to wreak havoc and cause great PR harm.

No longer can big corporations think the consumer is a little guy without the necessary resources to fight a big corporation. With access to social media, the little guy is now only limited by his creativity.

Yeah, some customers (patients) are impossible to please but they can never be taken lightly. Every complaint, every concern should be addressed. The disgruntled patient has many options to speak to the world about his/her dissatisfactions.

The London Times  reported that United Airlines stock has dropped since Carroll’s song began airing costing stockholders $180 million. Maybe your hospital doesn’t have public stock traded in the market, but ignoring and denying customer complaints can cost a hospital a handsome sum.

Don’t get caught singing that tune. 



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