Word of mouth advertising is NOT the best form of advertising.

I ask my audience, “What is the best form of advertising to build market share?” Invariably, almost everyone responds “word-of-mouth.” Yet I tell them they are wrong.

The reach of word-of-mouth has gone well beyond just family and friends. People are turning to the internet to use sites like Yelp, TripAdvisor, and even Facebook to make buying decisions. While the reviews and advice are virtual, it is still word-of-mouth advertising. Customers do it and most likely with technological advances, will do it even more. While customers don’t know any other customers, they trust their reviews. Michael Angelo Caruso, leadership and communication consultant, says it like this: “If I tell you how great I am, it’s advertising. If someone else tells you how great I am, it’s the truth.”  Customers trust the reviews and ratings of complete strangers over advertising. But here’s the catch. Customers not only are looking at the good reviews. They’re making a no-buy decision on the poor reviews, too. For example, if a customer is looking for a hotel, he may veer away from one that has customers post reviews of paper-thin walls or poor housekeeping. A bad review will hurt you more than a good one will help.

So simple word-of-mouth, be it in person or on the internet, is not the best form of advertising. The best form of advertising is “positive word-of-mouth.”

There are three things that happen after you do business with a customer.

  1. You do not meet the customer’s expectations. The customer is dissatisfied, never saying anything to you, but rants to everyone, including those he does not even know.
  2. You meet his expectations but, in his mind, did nothing to set you apart. He may be satisfied, but he tells no one.
  3. You exceed the customer’s expectation where he wants to continue to do business with you. Not only does he loyally return, he raves about you to others, even those he does not know.

QUI TAKEAWAY: It takes more than meeting a customer’s expectations to drive positive word-of-mouth advertising. Satisfied customers feel their experience is good, not better, just average. Nobody raves about average. And satisfied customers will leave when they find something better or less expensive. Exceeding customers’ expectations is the only outcome that actually builds your business. In order to become raving fans, customers must experience an interaction that is simply over the top. They must walk out your doors and say “Wow! That’s the best thing that has happened to us today.” Without the “wow” there is no rave review. And if you are not generating rave reviews, you simply are not generating enough positive word-of-mouth advertising to build your business. So, today, don’t treat customers as they would have expected. And don’t treat them more than they want to be treated. Instead, treat them a little better than they want to be treated. Don’t serve to sell. And don’t serve to satisfy customers. Instead, serve to WOW them. Serve to CARE. Be Magnificently Boring! And Be GREAT out there!


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Filed under Customer Experience, Customer Satisfaction, Customer Service, Hospitality, Training

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