Empowerment. It’s what’s shifting the balance of information from sellers to buyers.
Just a few years ago the conventional selling wisdom was to brag about the good word-of-mouth, and try to hush the bad. Since the only thing customers tended to have in common was that they purchased from the same seller, they weren’t able to tell each other much about their respective experiences.
When the seller told prospective customers the good news of a positive referral, they may have never heard the bad news from other customers.
But technology has changed that balance by connecting, and empowering, the buyers. They’re connected through cell phones, through IMs, chats, e-mail groups, blogs, podcasts, and vidcasts. They’re sharing information.
They’re talking about you. They’re doing it right now.
In the past I’ve stated you are in control of your company’s word-of-mouth. I’ve even explained how to budget for word-of-mouth. And here I am telling you that customers are talking to each other and leaving you out of the process.
Let’s discuss some real world causes of word-of-mouth.
Imagine a customer planning a getaway for a family of four. She’s checking prices online, and finds Best Western has a price-match guarantee. She finds a better price at HotelClub.net, books a non-smoking room, and submits a price-match claim.
Best Western rejects the claim because she booked a non-smoking room, and HotelClub.net didn’t guarantee a non-smoking room.
Being the stubborn type, she goes back to HotelClub and books a smoking room. She again submits her claim and is again rejected. This time it’s because although their hotel only offers two double beds for the occupancy of four persons, she didn’t specify that she wouldn’t accept a double and two singles, or even four singles.
Think she might put her story on the web?
Suppose a customer was excited by the news that as of January 1, 2005 Blockbuster was no longer going to charge late fees on their movie rentals. Further suppose he had rented one, and didn’t return it within a couple of weeks. Would he be upset to find he’d just purchased that movie?
Then, to add insult to injury, the company indignantly states that there ARE no late fees any more, which technically is true. They’re not charging a fee for keeping the disc. Instead, they’ve just sold it to him.
What do you think? Will he sit on this story, or share it with other anonymous prospective buyers?
Making false promises, and weaseling out of them is so common that savvy shoppers automatically begin by reading the fine print in the offer.
Look at the basic price match guarantee. To qualify for the price match, a shopper should have to compare apples to apples. That’s fair, isn’t it? In order to match the price, the items sold must be exactly the same, as evidenced by the model number.
Suppose a shopper found the exact same Minolta camera at three different major retail chains. Oh, wait, they’re not exactly the same.