Status Updates and Mad Men

I started my career answering hate mail from customers in customer service. Statistics at that time, back when persons communicated by telephone, letter, or even occasionally face-to-face, showed that someone who got bad service would tell, on the average, 10 persons; someone who got good service–that is, someone who got what he or she paid for–might tell one person.

Social media may be increasing the reach of negative comments, as Bloomberg reports.

A negative review or comment on the , or Web sites can lose companies as many as 30 customers, according to a survey by Convergys Corp.

A customer review on one of the sites reaches an average audience of 45 people, two-thirds of whom would avoid or completely stop doing business with a company they heard bad things about, Convergys said, citing its own survey.

This is, I think, overall a good thing. Companies are armed with market surveys, hordes of psychologists thinking up new ways to coerce us into buying stuff we don’t want or need, and numerous other techniques to snare us as customers. There is an entire sub-genre of marketers dedicated to arranging stuff in food stores so we buy more, buy more of what we don’t need or want, or buy the more expensive of two otherwise equivalent products.

It also strikes back at “viral marketing,” in which companies or their advertising firms camouflage ad campaigns so they look like spontaneous popular sentiments. (Follow the “viral marketing link”; it goes to a site belonging to a viral marketer. It is most educational.)

Assuming that dissatisfied customers who use social media to discuss their dissatisfaction are honest about their experiences and respectful of others, I say more power to them. It’s more power for us as consumers.

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