When I studied marketing in the early 1990s, a professor said that a disgruntled consumer shares a negative buying experience with ten times as many people as a positive one. Today, upset customers can share their anger with the world.
Late in the evening of November 2001, two men arrived at a Doubletree Club Hotel in Houston, Texas where they had arranged guaranteed reservations. They were chagrined to discover that the rooms had long since been assigned, and they were miffed at finding themselves confronted with a desk clerk who was decidedly unapologetic about the mix-up, unsympathetic to their plight, and unhelpful at making alternate arrangements.
To express their displeasure, the two men used Microsoft’s PowerPoint software to prepare a humorous graphic complaint entitled “Yours is a Very Bad Hotel.” They sent the presentation to the hotel manager, two friends, and one of their mothers-in-law. That was it. On the last PowerPoint screen, they encouraged the recipients to spread the word.
Within a few months, the PowerPoint presentation was forwarded millions of times around the world and got prominent coverage in publications such as The Wall Street Journal and Forbes. Imagine what this negative exposure cost the Doubletree in terms of its reputation and lost reservations.
Now, it’s even easier for people to express frustration with a product or service that doesn’t meet their expectations. For reviews of just about any kind of service provider, from insurance agents to clowns who perform at birthday parties, check out Angie’s List. Members of Angie’s List have access to a database of opinions that are posted by other members, who number 250,000 nationwide. The reviews follow a standard format that looks like a school report card. Contractors, for instance, are graded by parameters including workmanship, punctuality and friendliness. And there is a comment section where you can learn that while Bob is a terrific plumber, he’s colorblind – so don’t let him advise you on what to paint the bathroom.
Angie’s List is just one of many sites aimed at soliciting consumer reviews. Others with a national presence include the Better Business Bureau, Craigslist, City Search, Trip Advisor, and Epinions. In addition, many cities have local websites that give consumers a place to vent.
An irate consumer can also write about a negative experience with your company on a blog. According to Technorati, the largest blog search engine, there are now 29.3 million blogs and many contain entries about poor products and service.
Truly tweaked and technologically-savvy consumers can easily develop a website to communicate their displeasure to the world. Some good examples of this can be found at websites lodging complaints against Walmart, Home Depot, and PayPal.
While it might be tempting to ignore customer complaints when you have concerns that seem more pressing, your failure to assuage the complainer and to prevent similar incidents from occurring might cause the next “Yours Is A Very Bad Business” message to go around the world.
By taking good care of your customers, you are not only doing the right thing but also ensuring that your business will grow through positive word-of-mouth.
By Patrick Galvin
Patrick Galvin is “Chief Galvanizer’’ at Galvin Communications, a word-of-mouth marketing and PR firm in Portland, Oregon. http://www.galvincomm.com
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