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The Power of WOM

Word of Mouth (WOM) is defined as the act of consumers providing information to other consumers.  This information can be positive or negative—and dramatically increase or decrease sales.  Harnessing the power of WOM is what all business owners should do to promote their business.

In today’s ever-growing media channels, the average person receives over 1000 messages a day.  No wonder messages get lost or forgotten!  But there is a way to cut through the clutter, and that is through old-fashioned word-of-mouth.  WOM has gained renewed importance because we will usually listen to other people – especially to those we know and trust.

So, do you know what your customers are saying about your business?  I mean what they are really saying?  
Here are some facts you should know:

• 46 percent of customers walk out because of poor service.
• 96 percent of dissatisfied customers never complain, at least to the offending business.
• 91 percent of them do not buy from you again.
• 100 percent of them will tell their “horror” stories to others.
So, how can you increase your odds if the customer doesn’t tell you what is wrong?  Here are some helpful tips:

If customer service is important to your business, you need to hire employees who are caring, friendly, compassionate, and who really like dealing with people.

Ask your customers the following questions (and listen carefully to what
they say!):
o What are we doing right?
o How can we do that even better?
o What have we done wrong?
o  What can we do in the future?

Don’t wait until you notice a decrease in sales; be proactive and make it a habit to ask these questions on a regular basis.

Be dedicated to service and customer satisfaction.  Have a “code of conduct” displayed where both employees and customers can see it.  The code should clearly spell out how customers should be treated by your employees.  Make sure this code is followed 24/7 by training the employees and setting standards to measure performance.  Use your creativity to find ways to reward employees for superior service.

Focus on what your customers are not saying by looking at their body language, facial expressions, etc.   These cues can tell you a lot!

Empower your employees to immediately turn a dissatisfied customer into a happier one.  I was at a coffee shop where there was a long line for ordering.  Like most of us, I was trying to do several errands before picking up my kids.  I must have looked frustrated, because when I finally got to the register to order my drink, the lady gave me a big smile and said the coffee was on them because of the long wait.  I could not believe it!  And I did not have to say a single word!  I was pleasantly surprised and am now a loyal customer because of how well I was treated.  The employees did not have to check with their manager, but were empowered to fix a potential problem.  Very effective!

Recognize that a happy customer is the greatest endorsement you can have for your business.

Theresa Freihoefer is a Professor of Business at Central Oregon Community College - This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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