Bad Service News Travels Fast

Discussion
Mar 09, 2011
George Anderson

Unhappy customers are not quiet ones. That’s the finding
of new research by Colloquy that
shows negative word of mouth travels quickly to friends, family and coworkers.

Seventy-five
percent of consumers say they share bad experiences with family and friends,
while 42 percent do the same when they are happy.

Twenty-six percent
of those surveyed said they are more likely to spread negative opinions than
positive ones.

Even among brand loyalists — WOM Champions, in Colloquy terms
— 31 percent were more likely to share negative experiences. Affluent consumers
were among the biggest bad-mouthers with 30 percent more likely to complain
than say something positive.

Colloquy labeled consumers who are most likely to share bad experiences
as “madvocates.” Pure madvocates, according to the research, make
up about seven percent of the population.

“It’s notable that the ‘madvocacy’ attitude is significantly more
prevalent among word-of-mouth champions (31 percent) than the general population
(26 percent),” said Kelly Hlavinka, managing partner at Colloquy. “One
lesson is clear, hell hath no fury like a champion scorned. Since madvocacy
is an attitude that nearly a third of all champions share and are willing to
act upon, loyalty marketers must accept their responsibility for the impact
their programs can have on generating both positive and negative word of mouth.”

Jim
Sullivan, partner at Colloquy, said, retailers and brands can work to
turn “madvocates
into advocates.” He suggested three steps:


  1. Create a “trialogue” between the brand and consumers and also
    between consumers. 
  2. Involve customers in WOM programs through social sharing communities online.
  3. Move from the marketing mindset of offering incentives to providing service. 

Discussion Questions: What are your recommendations for turning “madvocates into advocates”?

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19 Comments on "Bad Service News Travels Fast"


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Dick Seesel
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

One word: “Urgency.” React to problems–especially those posted on websites and social networking sites–with a very public response, as well as a personal response to the customer in question. For example, it’s interesting to watch which hotel managers respond to negative reviews on TripAdvisor, and how much value this can add to the hotel’s reputation for taking care of its guests. Will it cost more to “staff up” to these requirements? Absolutely…but the costs of negative feedback going viral and doing irreparable damage to the brand are far higher.

Marge Laney
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Implement and monitor selling and service strategies that minimize the possibility of this happening in the first place. But, when the inevitable misstep happens, make sure managers on down to the associate on the floor have the authority to be a ‘hero’ and fix it. It’s been proven again and again that brand cheerleaders are often customers that have had bad experiences corrected by adept associates.

J. Peter Deeb
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

The best way to deal with “madvocates” is to pre-empt as many of them as possible through delivery of superior customer service. This includes training, hiring of people with superior interpersonal relations skills (no small feat in this day and age of texting and tweeting) and exceeding customers expectations particularly in handling problems. The major reasons for not doing these things are time and money, however, is it a coincidence that companies who do these things are consistently top performers in their industries?

Warren Thayer
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Lots of madvocates are just bullies. Confront bullies, and they’ll more than likely fold. Confront them kindly and wisely, and they’ll more than likely become a friend. This ain’t rocket science.

Bill Hanifin
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Madvocates must be recognized as valued customers and a sincere response given with an aim to resolve customer service or product failure issues.

At the same time, the substance of individual complaints filed by Madvocates should be given thought. Some people are unreasonable and the internet gives each person a platform to cast aspersions, right or wrong. Not everyone can be made happy and the community of brand fans will sniff out the cranks.

Brands need to respond to all customer inquiries with urgency, sincerity, and treat the resolution as an enterprise goal, not just the responsibility of a siloed CSR.

Matthew Keylock
Guest
Matthew Keylock
10 years 1 month ago

The rise of new communication channels and social media is already amplifying the messages that are out there. Much better to make sure they are positive ones than negative! So mitigating negative messages by getting products and services right and managing mistakes and accidents well becomes even more important. When done right this can turn a negative into a positive.

While all customers are not equal it is becoming more important to not only know who is loyal or high potential, but it is becoming increasingly important to identify the “mavens” and “connectors” (per Gladwell) too, from new data sources that are becoming available.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

One reason customers complain on an electronic platform is that they know a complaint in person in the store won’t be effective. Managers may not be incented to retain customers, store associates don’t know what to do, and direct channels into retailer comment lines may not be responsive. It’s in retailers’ interest to reach out and address these issues, and to proactively change the store environment.

James Tenser
Guest
10 years 1 month ago
The customer service literature is replete with evidence that consumers tell many times more people about bad experiences than good ones. This study would seem to reaffirm that core truth. The new wrinkle is added by social/personal media, which provide mechanisms to vastly multiply the reach of a negative story and amplify its impact. Worse yet, Web platforms make these tales persistent and search-able. What’s a brand to do? First, come to terms with the reality that some customers will be vocally dissatisfied, no matter what. Like the scorpion on the back of the frog, they can’t help it–it’s in their nature. Second, take methodical steps to minimize the number of bad experiences and maximize the good experiences your organization creates. That means establishing superior service practices. Hiring, enabling and training good people come next. Third, become a credible participant in the conversation. Here’s where that “trialog” concept may indeed have some relevance. But be careful. You can’t fake this. The scorpions will sniff out BS wherever it occurs and use the above mentioned social/personal… Read more »
Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
10 years 1 month ago

The most obvious way is to avoid creating madvocates to begin with, but how does a company do this? It is inevitable that there are some customers who will never be satisfied but the key is to keep this group very small.

I worked for many years for a company whose goal was to take care of its associates so that they, in turn, would take care of the customers. Store Associates were viewed as the most important link to the customer. Therefore it was important to our leadership to ensure that we could provide the associate all the tools that they would need to do this. That included giving the associates unprecedented access to company information and personnel. It also included pushing down decision making responsibility to the individual store associate so that they could make a difference at the very moment it was needed.

Empowerment at the store level can make the difference between a satisfied or unsatisfied customer experience and will turn madvocates into advocates.

Ed Rosenbaum
Guest
10 years 1 month ago
I am surprised to read this article and get the sense we should think this is new news. For generations we have learned that unhappy consumers are going to tell three people for every one a satisfied consumer will tell. This is not either new or rocket science. It is a matter of doing the right thing and communicating with unhappy customers as quickly as you can to disspell any chance of bad news traveling faster than you would want. Yes, unhappy customers can be bullies. They will let their anger out in as many ways as possible. In today’s world of speed and technology; that can be a serious concern. So make them an ally and satisfy their displeasure by rectifying what ever happened to create the issue initially. As a side note; I hesitate to read reports such as this under the guise of it being new when it is simply a remake of old numbers. Kind of like the new version of the movie “True Grit.” The acting was good but the… Read more »
Liz Crawford
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Turn the madvocate into your boss. Let them have a role in the re-working of a process, the elimination of a problem or the launch of a new service or product.

I used to teach school. There are always complainers. The way around this is to turn the the noisy-negative into an “alter leader.” An alter leader is the second in command of the group. If you don’t recruit this person, they will always work against you. Finding these people and giving them some authority to change things and help you is the only real way through the problem.

John Karolefski
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Invite “madvocates” to a retailer-sponsored focus group to discuss issues and look for solutions. Sincere “madvocates” will attend and will feel they can make a difference. Good chance they will morph into “advocates” since their voice is being heard.

Craig Sundstrom
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

Like the captain asked about how to handle being grounded on the rocks “best not to get in that position in the first place”; but of course on any sizable ship there will always be a few problem passengers. Warren suggested many complainers are bullies, I would go further and say many are cranks; analyze each complaint ( if there are hundreds of thousands, it’s a bad sign already), look for patterns, and decide what–if any–improvements are needed…do your best, ignore the rest.

Doug Pruden
Guest
Doug Pruden
10 years 1 month ago

There are some overall fundamental reasons why unhappy customers communicate their story more loudly and more frequently than satisfied customers. (And it’s not just as simple as saying it’s because they are mad or that it’s related to some dark side of the human character.) Yes, it’s smart to monitor online media and address individual problems and the bigger systemic issues. But you can additionally apply a totally different strategy that will move some of your happy customers to publicly defend you, generate more positive word of mouth, and thereby change the tone of the dialogue about your brand.

Ted Hurlbut
Guest
Ted Hurlbut
10 years 1 month ago
The best solution to dissatisfied customers is to not dissatisfy them in the first place. Once you’ve angered a customer to the point that they’re telling their friends the horse is out of the barn and the train has left the station. You’ve pretty much lost them. As unreasonable as some customers can be, most dissatisfied customers are unhappy because of something the retailer did or didn’t do. So don’t anger them in the first place. These dissatisfied customers are the result of short-sighted and counterproductive attitudes, policies, and procedures on the part of senior management, that flows down through the organization to customer-facing employees, and through them to customers. The problems do not originate at the point of contact with customers, it originates far earlier and far upstream from that point. What’s needed is some reverse engineering, to see exactly what policies and procedures anger customers, and exactly what the underlying attitudes are behind those policies and procedures. Then correct those attitudes and revise each policy and procedure that might potentially disappoint or anger… Read more »
M. Jericho Banks PhD
Guest
M. Jericho Banks PhD
10 years 1 month ago

I’m with Ed Rosenbaum in thanking Colloquy for this breaking news. Manufacturers and retailers alike will now have to make major adjustments to their entire marketing plans in light of this revelatory research.

This “report” is a thinly-disguised–nope, transparent–ploy to add the term “madvocate” to the vernacular. Mission accomplished.

Jerry Gelsomino
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

The simple way to turn madvocates into advocates is to listen to them. Act and respond in a way to show them you care. Ignoring someone is the best way to get them mad. Engaging with them and respectfully having a dialogue builds your image.

Phil Rubin
Guest
10 years 1 month ago

It’s not news that “madvocates” tell more people about bad experiences than they tell about good ones. It’s also fundamental for any customer-centric organization to do whatever it can not piss off good customers! Of course this is sometimes unavoidable and the solution is that when bad things happen to good customers, the situation needs to be fixed.

The real opportunity with madvocates is to fix things to a point that they are not only satisfied but once again advocates. Service recovery, whether it’s an error on the part of the business or the customer, is a way to really cement the emotional loyalty of the customer.

Tom Hughes
Guest
Tom Hughes
10 years 1 month ago

There is a vocal minority who will voice their displeasure with a company over a policy or service they disagree with. No company can win this battle. It is very much like the battles that exist in the political sector. most political parties give up in trying to win back a voter who is opposed to their policies but rather addresses their focus on the “undecided” which is always the largest group. The same approach should be used by retailers to make sure their policies appeal to the average silent shopper who make up the vast majority of shoppers. Make sure you try to draw out the silent shoppers opinions and preferences and proactively manage your business toward those preferences.

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