Turning Rants Into Raves…

Flying in Winter

I got a call today from someone who raved about the service they received yesterday while flying United Airlines through Chicago.

This… on one of the busiest travel days of the year, in the middle of a major winter storm that cancelled 500 flights at O’hare in the last 24 hours.

Service so excellent, they’re telling everyone… and planning to blog about it too. The customer is doing the airline’s marketing for them.

This is a case of great service meeting word of mouth and new media.

Caution: it works both ways…

Lousy service seems to meet word of mouth and new media even faster.


For many people, it’s easy to rant. There are lots of rants… and ranters.

I once heard a statistic, something to the effect that if a customer has a positive experience with you… they will tell three people. If they have a negative experience… they’ll tell ten.

Either way it snowballs, but negative seems to grow bigger… faster.

You see, it doesn’t really take much to start a rant, or a mob-rant, these days. In fact, it seems that every time we’re ticked about something, there’s always an audience, or virtual audience, close by.

The tools are handy… a blackberry or laptop is ready to Twitter the world, or whoever will listen. The next blog post might reveal the entire experience.


It’s the old ‘carrot or stick’ idiom. The carrot is a reward for correct behavior… the stick is punishment for incorrect behavior.

Both are said to be useful in creating behavioral change… although one is very positive… and the other is highly negative.

The rave is the carrot… the rant is the stick. The rant : rave ratio appears from the previous section to be about 10 : 3.


It is, of course, possible that the ranter really isn’t trying to affect positive change at all. It could be that they are just mad as all get-out and want to have their say.

But the stick tends to make the other person defensive… and puts them in a position to try and cover their posterior.

I guess some people are motivated by the negative, but it’s a mistake to forget about the carrot.

People like recognition… they want to be noticed doing something well. Praising them for all the world to hear and see is powerful… it leads to a repetition of the behavior that is being reinforced.

But it must be authentic.


In a few hours it will be Christmas Day. This is definitely my favorite night of the year… but for some it does seem incredibly stressful. During this season, let’s look for what’s right and build on that.

Why not go out and proactively catch someone doing something good, and then honestly tell the world about it?

Not flattery… and not just pleasantry. Genuine feedback that will set the bar higher for competing companies, which in turn will increase service levels, and reduce headaches for all of us.



1) If you ranted about something, and the offending organization followed up immediately, admitted their error, and corrected the problem promptly… how would that affect your perception of their business? Might it turn your rant into a rave?

2) Do you have a plan to identify and follow up wih those who rant about your business?


I look forward to speaking with you.


Photo Credit:

Anirudh Koul