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News of a Bad Customer Experience Travels Fast

Engage Dialogue, Share, Address Negative Issues Immediately

Mar 8, 2011 2:34 PM   By Jeff Miller
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RAPAPORT... COLLOQUY’s latest research into the word-of-mouth  sharing practices of U.S. households found that: Bad news travels fast. Of 3,295 U.S. consumers surveyed by COLLOQUY, slightly more than one out of every four (26 percent) said that they were "far more likely" to spread that negative experience about a product or service to family, friends and coworkers than they were to  praise a brand. 

Affluent consumers scored highest for saying they’re "far more likely to spread a bad experience" than a positive one with 30 percent confirming that statement. Senior citizens  scored the lowest however at 19 percent. One-quarter of younger adults and of women both stated that they were more likely to share a bad experience over a good one.

In a survey finding of equal significance, even among consumers who are most loyal to, engaged with and willing to recommend brands they like — a group COLLOQUY calls word-of-mouth champions — 31 percent said they were far more likely to share information about a bad experience with a product or service than a good one.

COLLOQUY adopted the term "madvocates" to define consumers who were predisposed to engage in negative feedback with the corresponding attitude being coined "madvocacy." COLLOQUY also concluded that marketing reps at the brands must practice tips on turning "madvocates" into brand advocates.

1. Make sure customers not only have an opportunity for a dialogue (not a monologue) with the brand, but with each other. That’s what COLLOQUY calls the ‘trialogue.’ Get the conversations started by asking for opinions and insights, and recognize contributions.

2. Involve customers in word-of-mouth programs by forming online social sharing communities, panels and co-development platforms. Do your own social media.

3. Be innovative and make sure content is relevant, fresh and rewarding. Start by transforming your marketing mindset from “incentive” to “service.” Be sure to nip any service problems in the bud and head off any negative word-of-mouth messages that can quickly go viral from these well-connected customers.

“Negative word of mouth is a function of the bad experience we all may have on occasion,” said COLLOQUY managing partner Kelly Hlavinka. “Rather than uncover a separate group of brand curmudgeons, we instead discovered an overlap of positive and negative stances found among all groups.

“It’s notable that the madvocacy attitude is significantly more prevalent among word-of-mouth champions  than the general population (a 26 percent),” Hlavinka added. “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.”

Seventy-five percent of the general U.S. population said that when they’ve had a bad experience with a product or service they advise friends and family of said experience, whereas only 42 percent said they always recommend a product or service that they really liked. 

“Marketers trying to locate word-of-mouth champions will have a far better chance if they look within their rewards programs rather than outside of them. COLLOQUY’s research shows, in fact, they would be three times more likely to find Champions within a rewards program than not,” said COLLOQUY Partner Jim Sullivan.

“Loyalty marketers have already built a great word-of-mouth platform, the one provided by their rewards program,” Sullivan noted. “Word-of-mouth champions can spread the good word or switch to madvocacy mode, depending on the treatment they receive,” he added.

COLLOQUY's word-of-mouth survey, featuring completed responses from all participants, will be published as a white paper on March 18, 2011.

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Tags: angry, consumer, happy, Jeff Miller, loyalty, mad, Research, rumor, trends
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