Hell Hath No Fury Like a Customer Scorned

It used to be, if your business angered a customer, you could lose the customer’s business, and count on him telling anywhere from 5 to 25 people about the negative experience.  Depending on the nature of the the experience and the credibility of the angry customer, you might take a business hit from some existing and prospective customers.  Not to mention, your loss is your competitor’s gain.

Nowadays, through the wonders of technology, specifically the interactivity of Web 2.0, disgruntled customers have a much larger stage for their soapbox.  Hundreds, thousands, even millions of people can now read about a single customer complaint!  An article in yesterday’s New York Times, titled "Dealing With the Damage From Online Critics," discusses this topic. 

Now, no business is immune to the occasional dissatisfied customer.  However, as the article explains, it’s often how the business deals with the dissatisfaction that makes or breaks them.  Depending on the magnitude of the customer’s anger, bitter online posts with embellished details and ominous threats can give pause to potential customers and even disinterested third parties.  Critical and derogatory web sites can be created, or simply steaming posts on blogs or online forums can wreak havoc on a business’ goodwill.

Businesses can fight back by jumping into the fray with denials, counter-claims, or simply by posting authentic or contrived positive news about themselves or their products.  However, my belief is that nobody wins in this kind of online street fight.  Everyone comes out with at least some scrapes and bruises.  A better approach would be for the business to attempt to reach out to the offended customer, and try to learn the exact nature of the problem, why it happened, why it disturbed the customer, and how it can be avoided in the future. 

The business that acknowledges its problems, and resolves them to the customers’ satisfaction, is going to win a lot more loyalty and admiration than one who simply tries to sweep the dirt under the carpet.

  — Chuck Dennis

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