Power to the people - the rise of feedback culture


Your customers have never had so many ways to tell you what they think - and it pays to listen.

It almost seems rather quaint looking back. In the pre social media days, complaining was largely a private matter between the customer and the company - with a decision usually at the discretion of the company, several weeks later. The consumer was largely powerless - and hidden. Not any more. Today the customer has a whole range of options to give their feedback and be heard - often very loudly. Failing to listen can cost a business big time - just look at Dave Carroll's story below.


140 characters might seem a tad limiting - but it doesn't stop people using Twitter to fire very direct messages right into the backside of their targets. The power to make an impact is easy - just use the company's Twitter handle and name within the tweet to ensure the message is seen by as many people as possible - not forgetting a hashtag for good measure. And, if it gets re-tweeted then who knows the coverage.

Organisations are getting savvy to this and responding to customer tweets in real time, and often with good humour. Are they doing this out of the goodness of their hearts? Hardly, it’s because the power to influence brand attitudes is now in the hands of the consumer.


Unless you’ve landed on the Moon, the chances are your hosts will be asking you to leave a review on TripAdvisor - and they’d very much like it to be positive. There’s a very good reason, recent TripAdvisor research showed that 77% of travellers usually or always read TripAdvisor reviews before choosing hotels and they’ll cover 6-12 reviews on average before they book.

If a disgruntled customer wants to make a point about bad service - they can leave a damning review on TripAdvisor - effortlessly and for free. There’s no hiding place for the Basil Fawlty’s anymore.

You Tube

Why not go one step further and make a video. That’s what US guitarist Dave Carroll did after his beloved $3,500 Taylor acoustic guitar was broken by United Airlines. After 9 months of complaints failed to get any compensation, Carroll wrote a song ‘United Breaks Guitars’ which he posted on YouTube. And as a guitarist myself, I don’t blame him!

Within four days of the song going online, the viral power of bad PR caused United Airlines' stock price to fall by 10%, estimated to have cost shareholders $180 million. This was five years ago and the outcome is the stuff of YouTube legend and has since clocked up over 14 million views. It’s also spawned a book and a consumer advocate career for Dave Carroll.

If you haven’t seen the video before, you are in for a treat…


It’s not just consumer brands under the feedback spotlight. Employers are not exempt from being named and shamed. Glassdoor is a kind of TripAdvisor for employees and candidates - and some don’t hold back. A quick look at Glassdoor while researching this article showed a review titled ‘Candidates - run from this company’. Not the best contribution to the employer brand.

Poor employment and candidate experiences shared via sites like Glassdoor and social networks like LinkedIn could have costly implications for employers in the same way that poor service affects consumer brands. What’s more, employees can change their spending habits too. There's no better way to say ‘you suck’.

The solution is simple

We live in a feedback society and we are used to (and often enjoy) giving that feedback. As customers we can say what we want, good and bad - and we do. As a business, the solution is simple. Just provide a great level of service and quality that gets your customers (and employees) talking about you for all the right reasons - again and again. If you don’t, you have a pretty good idea what will happen.

But no organisation is perfect - so when negative feedback happens, listen and respond. The chances are they’ll use the same social media to say nice things in return - it’s up to you.



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