We're currently completely redeveloping our house and recently it was time to look for a new kitchen. There's a massive choice – the number of people offering 'amazing deals' was itself quite amazing!
With too many to chose from, we turned to friends for recommendations and a number of names were mentioned – a few more than once. Such is the power of 'word of mouth'. The quality of response from one particular supplier reinforced their strong recommendation and it looked as if we were going to be using them.
At the same time, a well-known chain of DIY stores started a very heavy advertising campaign on the TV introducing their big 'push' for more upmarket kitchens. My partner, Jill, popped in to see what was on offer, and was pleasantly surprised at the quality of what she saw. So we thought we'd take up their offer of sending one of their guys to come out and see us. It couldn't do us any harm, we thought and it would be useful to have a price comparison.
He came to see us, measured up and promised to get back to us shortly. We waited and waited. Jill called in again but he wasn't there. She left a message. No reply. We followed up again. No reply. As you can imagine, by now the doubts had crept in. If it takes so long to put together a quotation, how long would it take to design and install a kitchen?
Always keen to give people a chance, Jill decided to give him one last go and thought she'd make a final call. Unfortunately Jill didn't have the number at hand so, like many of us would, turned to Google to provide the number. She typed in the name of the DIY store and its location. Obviously, up came lots of listings including the chain's own website at the top.
But she didn't click that one because she spotted another entry only three from the top headed, "In stock, but we can't and may never find it!!!". Intrigued, Jill ignored the official website and clicked on this one first. She discovered an online local forum (not local to us by the way!) which contained some very, very negative comments about the chain and their approach to kitchen installation.
OK, there's no way of checking the validity of all the comments, but those initial doubts had now become very, very strong. So strong in fact, that she didn't bother ringing them back. Instead, she called the local kitchen designer we had identified in the first place.
Word of mouth helped us identify a supplier. Word of Mouse helped us eliminate one.
The power of 'word of mouth' has always been strong. The power of 'word of mouse' has the potential to be considerably stronger. It's worth pointing out that both only work if there is something brilliant or something terrible to talk about. People generally don't talk at all about 'average' stuff, whether that's by mouth or mouse.
I was speaking at a seminar last year talking about the power of the 'word of mouse' and highlighting the influence of websites such as 'Trip Advisor' where customers rate hotels based on their experiences, good or bad. These have brought real transparency to the travel market and shifted power towards the customer.
A lawyer who was attending the seminar was adamant that all this was completely irrelevant to his business. So I had great pleasure in showing him the slide where I discussed www.ratemylawyer.com – which does exactly what it says it does. So don't think that this stuff won't affect you.
Have you ever actually typed in your company name into Google and seen what comes up? It's well worth a go. You never know, you might find out what people are really saying about you.