All Opinions Are Not Equal

What happens when you mess up? Not if, when. There could be some bad results, obviously. Or good ones. The results – in terms of future business and reputation – depend in part on how you handle the situation. But the outcome also depends on who is on the receiving end of your mistake – and how many followers are on the receiving end of their opinions.

SDL, a customer experience technology company, asked just under a thousand people a double question about a “failure” they had encountered as a customer:

  • After you kept doing business with (FAILNAME), which of the following best describes how you treated (FAILNAME) as a result of the failure?
  • Now, thinking about all of the different social networks you are a part of, how many individuals would you estimate you are connected to or follow in these networks?

The results showed that those with the most social media followers were more likely to be aggressive in their response. In other words, the individuals that answered, “I actively tried to disparage [the business that messed up] every chance I got through social media and other online publishing channels,” had an average social network of 1,560 – considerably more than other groups.

The next group was pretty tame in comparison. Those with follower counts averaging 618 said, “I stop recommending them.” Those with 583 followers said that they did “Nothing. Went on as if nothing changed.” Those with 565 followers said, “I started looking for alternative competitors.” Then you get down to those with an average of 489 followers. They’re old school with this response: “I actively try to disparage them every chance I get by word of mouth.”

As a contractor building your business on word-of-mouth and referrals, you can see how costly it can be to leave an issue unresolved or unsatisfactorily handled. That cost gets higher when the ones who are unhappy are willing to share their gripes loudly and publicly.

Customers are in charge of whether they keep you as their contractor after an install or repair job. The SDL research shows that, if a customer experience is a bad one, four out of five will leave and never come back. But another part of the eye-opening quality of the current marketing environment is that a relatively small group of people can take charge of your reputation.

Of the total surveyed, only 2% said they would disparage the company on social media, but that small group is loud. So, what can you do to safeguard your image? 

First, deliver excellent customer service. No company is perfect, so you’ll still make mistakes, but increase the level of your service, follow-up and customer care to keep these failures to a minimum. If you make a promise in your marketing – be prepared to deliver. If you can’t deliver, don’t promise.

Second, if you are on the receiving end of a vocal, potentially viral complaint, see it as an opportunity to improve your service. If someone who complains loudly is experiencing a problem, someone else who is remaining silent is likely to be experiencing something similar. Of those surveyed, only 36% did nothing but kept on as if nothing had happened.

Within that other group of 64%, you find the ones who stopped recommending the company, who looked for competitors and who disparaged by either word of mouth or via social media. Except for the social media disparagers, most of these customers did so without saying a word to you. Therefore, the disparagers provide valuable customer intelligence about what others are experiencing. Listen. Learn. Address the issues.


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