Consumer power

It’s always been important to deal with customer complaints quickly and politely. But with the ease that bad news can travel across the web, you need to be even more on the ball.


Last February, I wrote that it’s roughly once a year we see a business owner’s stroppy email to an unhappy customer plastered all over the media.

Two weeks short of a year since that article was written, a Perth restaurateur found themselves the latest to fall for this trap.

Few business owners seem to understand just how quickly bad news about your service can travel and how by reacting inappropriately you can make the problem substantially worse.

It’s an old saw that one unhappy customer will tell 10 of their friends who in turn will each tell five of theirs. So that one unhappy customer results in 50 people hearing about it.

The internet amplifies this as that 50 can easily become 50,000 or even 50 million.

To make the problem even more acute, most consumers now use the web to research purchases. So a childish argument with a customer may be the first thing people find when they search the web for your business.

In travel and hospitality this is a very serious issue, as many customers won’t book a hotel room or restaurant table without first checking ratings and previous customer’s comments on their favourite review sites like Eatability and Trip Advisor.

Add comments and reviews in blogs like Grab Your Fork and Not Quite Nigella along with reviewer sites, like Word of Mouth on the Web and Not Good Enough and you have the opportunity for thousands of people to know about one bad experience.

This was bought home to me last week at a conference where various speakers showed what’s working in social media. Every presentation emphasised how people trust their networks on the web, be it Facebook, MySpace, Twitter or any of countless other forums.

So if a complaint about your business gets on to one of those channels, you can bet it will spread quickly. Which means you need to know what’s being said about your business.

As we discussed last week, Google Alerts is a good place to start, but that will only pick up a narrow range of what’s being said on the net.

Ask your customers how they found out about your business and where they go online to find what’s good in the marketplace. If you start hanging out in those forums as well, you’ll get early warning of problems as well as seeing where your competitors are doing things differently.

Once upon a time, market research like this was only available to the biggest companies. The ease which smaller businesses can now find out what’s happening is another example of how computers and the internet have levelled the playing field.




Paul Wallbank has spent 15 years helping businesses with their technology issues. Over that time he also grew PC Rescue into a national IT company and set up the IT Queries website. Today Paul assists business facing the challenges of today’s market and believes entrepreneurs and new thinking is what will fix the global economy.



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