Customer service gurus know that while one happy, satisfied customer might tell five friends and family members about their pleasant experience, an unhappy customer is more likely to share the bad news with up to 100 people.
A new survey by Colloquy shows that there may be more truth to that statement than once thought. This group's recent research into word-of-mouth (WOM) sharing practices of households within the United States show that bad experiences spread like wildfire – much to the chagrin of companies with less-than-stellar service records.
What the Numbers Show
In this latest study, Colloquy surveyed 3,295 consumers to find out whether they were likely to share bad news about a customer service experience to others. The survey found that one in every four (26%) would be far more likely to talk about poor customer service with family, friends and co-workers. Even customers who considered themselves loyal to a particular company or brand were willing to talk about a negative customer service experience with that particular company to others. In fact, 31% of consumers in this category said they would be more likely to share information about a bad customer experience than a good one.
Kelly Hlavinka, managing partner for Colloquy, commented on the second set of data to Customer Service Manager. "One lesson is clear, hell hath no fury like a champion scorned." Colloquy refers to consumers who are loyal and engaged with a specific brand or company as "WOM Champions."
The survey also found that while 75% of the general population said they would share a negative experience with friends and family members, only 42% said they would recommend a product or service they particularly like.
Colloquy also has a title for consumers who are more likely to participate in negative WOM activity after a poor customer service experience: Madvocates. Hlavinka says, "Negative word of mouth is a function of the bad experience we all may have on occasion. Rather than uncover a separate group of brand curmudgeons, we instead discovered an overlap of positive and negative stances found among all groups."
Colloquy is a provider of loyalty marketing publishing, education and research. The research division develops white papers and research studies to offer companies a more detailed understanding of consumer tendencies and behaviors. This particular study was conducted in December 2010, and the white paper on the study was published recently. A similar study was published by Colloquy one year earlier, titled, "The New Champion Customers: Measuring Word-of-Mouth Activity among Reward Program Members."
Customer service managers can use this information to help their CSRs understand the importance of consistency in their dealings with customers. According to this study, even customers who are loyal to and engaged with a business or a brand are more likely to share negative experiences with that company than positive ones.
While you might not always get WOM rewards by providing good customer service, you are likely to get the consequences of a single negative experience. Clearly, customer service needs to be a culture your entire company cultivates every single day.