Word of mouth (WOM) communication is becoming more and more important in the modern world, especially when talking about business.Word of mouth can be used as a powerful method in communication with customers. It helps to attract customers in a much more personal way because clients are relying on experiences of their acquaintances when making their purchasing decisions and creating their customer behavior patterns.
Word of mouth marketing is a field in business that requires a lot of research and it is definitely an interesting topic for marketers but at the same time for psychologists and consumer behavior analysts. Word of mouth changed its forms over the decades and proportionally its influence increased. There are much more ways of spreading the WOM and therefore much more users that can be influenced.
Previous experience and research show that references, comments, recommendations from our reference group (whether they are positive or negative) have an influence on purchasing decisions, and that satisfaction and loyalty impact further spread of WOM. Even though generating positive WOM is beneficial for a brand, marketers should also focus on negative WOM.
The question is at what exact point positive WOM turns to a negative one? At the point when previously satisfied consumers or even new consumers get disappointed by a product, service, brand or a company in a way that directly affects their experience and level of satisfaction in a negative way. This is a crucial point at which companies need to recognize how to react in order for negative WOM not to spread. Companies need to work on their customer relationship management and they need to create efficient processes of responding to consumer complaints and react immediately.
When Word Of Mouth Goes Wrong
There are many examples from practice of negative word of mouth and how it was handled by the executives of the companies and brands that were the target of the dissatisfied consumers.When Coca-Cola released their new rewards program called My Coke Rewards, they experienced bad word of mouth through social media channels. They introduced reward program in which consumers had to enter a specific code via internet in order to claim their reward which was obviously a move aimed at improving sales.
The thing Coca-Cola executives did not expect was bad publicity and that is what they got. What happened is that one of the regular Coca-Cola customers had real issues in retrieving his award through this program. But the bigger problem is that this was a person active and engaged in social media and he promoted his frustration toward company via his twitter channel which automatically exposed over 10 000 followers to these statements. Coca-Cola has people in charge of managing social media, and they reacted immediately by apologizing to the customer and offering the award that he was ought to get in the first place. This immediate reaction was appreciated and consumer showed that appreciation also through his twitter channel.
Nowadays when users have multiple social media accounts, blogs, websites, forums, online communities, etc. marketers need to focus on preventing negative WOM because its impact on sales may be really significant. Therefore companies need to recognize what are their consumers talking about them, why and how they can generate more positive WOM and avoid negative one. We saw from practice that the best way to turn around negative WOM when it already started is to work on the individual relationships with customers, provide explanations and apologies and compensate for the damage or dissatisfaction that occurred in the interaction between consumer and a company.