Tuesday, March 15, 2005

The Long Tail of Complaining: Using Search Engines to Exact Revenge

Until recently, the response set to a bad customer experience was fairly limited because the costs for an individual to retaliate were high. A letter written to corporate headquarters disappears into the ether. A sole proprietor doesn’t care about customer service. A complaint to the manager (in front of other shoppers) is embarrassing. And word of mouth is hard to start; it's inefficient to mention each negative experience to every friend and acquaintance since they may not be potential customers of the service and will quickly tire of your grumblings.

Search engines, however, can change the economics of complaining. Google, Yahoo, and MSN pick up information on all topics and serve them only to those who are interested. Writing a quick online review (on a blog, Yahoo Local, or elsewhere) has a real chance of impacting a person actively searching for information on that topic, someone likely to be in the process of a purchase decision.

This method will work best for smaller businesses and services since the reviews will rank higher on search engines for those businesses referenced online less often. That's fine. Word of mouth reviews form more readily on large entities since more people experience their service. Everyone knows to avoid Sprint wireless service if possible but how would you know to avoid a particular dry cleaner – who has an annoying habit of breaking every button – when in LA on business.

That’s the theory, anyway. In practice, I decided that I would no longer suffer bad service without revenge. I now plan to start a blog that will chronicle any particularly terrible customer service experiences, particularly with small, local, or online businesses, and will include specific business information. I think (and hope) that as the number of posts increases and others link to my site that its page rank on the major search engines will rise. At that point, my revenge will be complete.

Joining me in this venture will be my friend Will who, in a stroke of what is admittedly genius, came up with the same idea. His first venture into the space is a review of Docuharbor: Docuharbor is a Bad Service.

Look for a new consumer report blog coming soon.

I agree, he is an admitted genius.
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