AW

In a Viral World…

In Life Lessons on May 21, 2010 at 7:19 am

While working on one of my projects, I have been making a lot of phone calls to various businesses.  Sometimes, the reception on the other end of the line is very friendly.  Sometimes, people are genuinely interested in what I have to say, and are thankful for my call.  Even those that are not interested in what I have to say are usually polite at the very least.  But sometimes, the people at the other end of the line are simply rude, and have no just cause to act that way because I have done nothing to cause such a reaction.

In today’s economy, it would seem logical that businesses would go out of their way to garner goodwill, or at the very least, do whatever they can to avoid creating a negative perception of their business.  But even if the economy was booming, and businesses were thriving, there is another reason to treat people with respect (regardless of whether or not you are interested in what they have to say).  Aside from human decency, and treating others as you want to be treated, there is the stark reality that we all live in a viral world.

It is fairly easy to tarnish a product or service in the court of public opinion by spreading your dissatisfaction to the masses.  The damage that can be done on Facebook and Twitter alone is significant.  In theory, that damage caused would be contained to the reach of the dissatisfied consumer.  But the reality is that, in a viral world, bad news spreads like wildfire.  We all remember the commercial from the 70’s…“they told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on, and so on, and so on…” This is the very definition of spreading the word virally.

Businesses would be wise to take the viral effect into account before disrespecting people who they have no interest in speaking to.  However, there is something that may be even more damaging than one person spreading negativity about a product or service…and that is the ability for EVERY person to post reviews for the world to see.  And the worst part is that those reviews don’t go away, whereas the viral effect will likely have a relatively limited lifespan in our short-attention span society.

Whether businesses like it or not, the fact remains that the consumer is no longer powerless when they are dissatisfied.  They have a voice, and they are not shy about using it.  Today’s consumer is also far more educated than we were in the past, thanks in large part to Google.

Try doing the following experiment to see exactly what I am talking about…

Go to Google and type in the name of your town, your state and the word “restaurants.” You will usually be directed to a page that reads “Local business results for restaurants near_____”. Click on that link and you will see a Google map to the right, and a list of restaurants to the left.  Some of the restaurants will already have a number of reviews and high star ratings.  However, others may have few (if any) reviews or rankings.  It wouldn’t take much for a dissatisfied consumer to post a negative review, and give the restaurant a low rating.  If they had a few friends to do the same, this restaurant would instantly look like a place that is not worth visiting (regardless of whether or not this is true).

The bottom line is that perception IS reality, especially when it comes to Google and the consumer.  In a world of easy access to information and a plethora of choices, consumers will ALWAYS choose the products and services that are reviewed favorably by fellow consumers over those that are negatively reviewed.

If you are a business owner, it is in your best interest to be respectful to everyone that calls or visits your place of business (and to train your employees to do the same), or run the risk of having your reputation defined by those that you have disrespected.

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  1. Hmmm….I have to admit I’m guilty of being a rude on on the other end of the line. I’ve worked for bosses who DEMANDED all calls get screened and that become cumbersome throughout the day. You try to remember that the person on the other end of the phone just wants food on the table, but then you also fall into assumptions that all calls are alike. I got better with time and even learned to have fun with them. I’d chat about where they’re from, what the weather is like there and if they were willing to do some small talk, then I was willing to hear theirs.
    You’ve got such a fun disposition in-person and on the phone…I hope people start to hear that in you more and your calls go smoother!

  2. Hey Adam……. I have found more often than not that the ONLY remarks/ratings are negative about restaurants or other establishments when I google something. It just goes back to the fact that when we are happy we tell a few of our closest friends/family, but when we are dissatisfied, look out!!

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