Customer Satisfaction’s Multiplier Effect: Social Media

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social media goes viral“It has been said that something as small as the flutter of a butterfly’s wing can ultimately cause a typhoon halfway around the world.” – Chaos Theory

Chaos Theory argues that, if you change one thing, you change everything, because of the innate interdependence of everything in the world. Customer satisfaction is a lot like that. Whether your customer has a good or bad experience, they take that out into the world by telling their friends and family about your company. And now with social media, a single customer’s reach is endless. You want to be sure that what they are saying is positive.

Research previously completed by the White House Office of Consumer Affairs shows that:

  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience.
  • Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.
  • On the other hand, satisfied customers tell about 4-6 people about their experience.

Now consider the impact of social media. Today, consumers can spread negative word-of-mouth globally through online forums, online reviews, video sharing sites, and personal blogs.  Indeed, many internet sites encourage consumers to share their product and service experiences with consumers worldwide. As Pete Blackshaw states in the book Satisfied customers tell three friends, angry customers tell 3,000, “Consumer-generated media is the endless stream of comments, opinions, emotions, and personal stories about any and every company, product, service, or brand which consumers can now post online and broadcast to millions of other consumers with the click of the mouse.”

You’ve no doubt heard the story of Bob Carroll and his guitar that was damaged on a United Airlines flight.  Bob wanted to be compensated $1,200.  United had a policy against such compensation.  So, Bob mad a video called “United Broke My Taylor Guitar”, that went viral about the trials of trying to get United Airlines to compensate him for damaging his guitar. The original video currently has over 14 million views on YouTube, and has led to more video (versions 2 and 3) and a book: United Breaks Guitars: The Power of One Voice in the Age of Social Media! Then the story was also picked up by CNN, NBC, and CBS, adding who know how many million viewers?

How much did the viral video with 14 million views cost United? Perhaps more than $1,200?  And how did United respond?  United issued a press release saying that the video was a “unique learning experience” and they would be using the video internally for training purposes. Do you think that this “spin” overcame the negative impact on this well publicized negative customer experience?

You can play with the numbers and say that one unhappy customer will be balanced out by three happy customers.  But that means you are still at ground zero – you are not generating any net satisfaction or loyalty for your business.  Any way you slice it, with even a small base of dissatisfied customers, you are losing ground. The reality is that you can’t allow any of your customers to be dissatisfied – or you may find yourself the subject of a YouTube video that is viewed around the world. After all, it only takes one!

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Christian Wright

Christian Wright is the VP of Client Services at Infosurv. With a master’s in marketing research, he’s equipped to design actionable research that yields impactful insights and drives change.