3 Ways to Prevent Negative Word of Mouth

by Jeannie Walters

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Word of mouth means action.

What drives customers to buy from you? What drives you to make a purchase? Nielsen’s Global Trust in Advertising and Brand Messages is loaded with interesting facts, but what stands out the most to me is the evidence that word of mouth is the most powerful form of influence your brand can have on buying behavior.

In Nielsen’s global survey, consumers were asked,  “To what extent do you take action on the following forms of advertising?” Here are the top two answers:

  • Recommendations from people I know: 84%
  • Consumer opinions posted online: 70%

Consumers are much more likely to take action based on what they hear from real people than from traditional advertising.

What kind of action are we talking about?

That depends entirely on how happy your customers are. When the good word spreads about your product, it can lead to huge dividends. But an unhappy customer can wreak havoc on your brand image, being much more likely to complain about their experience, and to many more people.

negative word of mouth

Photo credit: FindYourSearch

How can we prevent negative word of mouth?

We’d love to think we can make all of our customers happy 100% of the time, but we’re human. There will always be a complaint or a moment of dissatisfaction once in a while. And once a complaint goes public, it can spiral out of control in an instant. So how can we prevent unhappy customers from spreading unsavory feedback about their experiences?

1. Offer traditional avenues of support.

Customers are still 11 times more likely to complain by phone than online, and 70% of people who complain online do so as a result of a failure in traditional customer service. What this means is that they would much rather contact you directly when there’s a problem. Make phone numbers, email addresses, live chat and contact forms accessible from all channels. Give them a chance to discuss the problem one on one and you’ll have a chance to end the experience on a high note before they broadcast their grievances on Twitter.

 2. Take responsibility for the experience.

Lousy customer experiences don’t just happen, you create them. You need to admit it.

37% of your complaining customers will feel satisfied if you correct the situation with a conventional remedy. That’s something, right? How about cranking that number up to 74%? You can accomplish this by simply taking responsibility for the situation. Apologize, admit to the mistake, and thank them for their feedback. Humble up and you can double your turnaround.


3. Add some love to your customer’s journey.

And continually strive to provide a better experience. Micro-mapping can help you identify sources of pain and delight, and prioritize your initiative to improve the experience. Take this a step further, and add some uplifting micromoments along the way. Find ways to turn typically boring touchpoints like invoices or signage into emotional connections. Make them entertaining, personal or enlightening. If they connect with the experience on a more personal level, customers will be more forgiving when they encounter a situation that’s not so great.

Customers have more power over your brand image than ever.

With social media at their fingertips 24 hours a day, they have more to say, more ways to say it, and the potential to reach a boundless audience. You can’t control what customers say about you, but with proactive solutions at hand, you can keep negative word of mouth from reaching disastrous proportions.

Image credits: StartBloggingOnline.comFindYourSearch via Creative Commons license

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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