Posted by: kgaboury | November 11, 2013

Word of mouth: a blessing and a curse

What consumers are saying about a product or service can speak volumes.

This is commonly known as word of mouth, and includes recommendations to friends and family (positive WOM), or scathing denouncements of a company to everyone within shouting distance (negative WOM). Anyone who has ever purchased something has probably partaken in word of mouth, whether it was recommending a new video game to friends, or venting about terrible customer service on their Facebook page.

But in the world of Web 2.0, WOM has taken on an entirely new significance. According to Bach and Kim’s article on online consumer complaint behaviors (2012), social networking platforms have transcended the effects of traditional WOM, allowing people to reach a much larger social network than just immediate friends and family.

An interesting example of awful customer service leading to negative WOM is the “Comcast Must Die” fiasco of the late 2000s. The cable company’s near-universal bad customer service led to disgruntled customers taking to the Internet to share their negative experiences with the company, culminating in the website ComcastMustDie.com as a forum for all things anti-Comcast.

In response to the negative publicity, Comcast started a division specifically for dealing with online complaints, a move that garnered much praise.

If anything can be learned from this situation, it is that hell hath no fury like a customer scorned. How can companies design a strategic communications plan that puts customers first, but still keeps the goals of the company in mind?

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