Paul Cardis

Founder and CEO Avid Ratings
Anje Jager/ Paul Cardis Founder and CEO Avid Ratings

The world has changed, indeed, to one that enables anyone to communicate with millions of people with a simple mouse click. This newfound “power of the mouse” was a dream of those who created the Internet, and today it is a reality. This is evidenced by the political revolutions throughout the Middle East being credited to the likes of Facebook and YouTube. While amazing to watch from afar, another revolution is impacting us right here in home building. In fact, many builders have had the Internet turned against them and their companies, leaving them not so excited about “progress.” How do you protect your company’s reputation in this unbridled new world? You arm your company with new Internet-based strategies to monitor, manage, and prevent attacks.

Chip Bell and John Patterson, renowned authors, speakers, and consultants to Fortune 1000 companies, are publishing a new book, Wired and Dangerous, due out this summer. Since Chip is a gracious person and a friend, he sent me a copy of the authors’ final manuscript before it went to press. With their permission, I would like to share some key portions from the new book in this article. Let’s explore some concepts from this sure-to-be seminal work:

Today, the customer really is king. Enabled and equipped by the Internet, with its capacity to instantly reach a gazillion fellow customers with the click of a mouse, customers can bring any service provider to its knees. ... The tables of the customer relationship have been turned. Plentiful product and service information has created a more mature customer. Customers today are wired and dangerous … .

The Guitar Heard Around the World

After musician Dave Carroll learned from fellow passengers that United Airlines baggage handlers were damaging his guitar on the tarmac, he was unable to find anyone at United willing to make the situation right, so he made a music video about his woes. He posted the video on YouTube, chronicling in humorous detail United’s failure to provide appropriate service and its limp approach to repairing or reconciling the situation. This negative view of the United brand has been viewed by well over 9 million people! This juicy cyber battle has been cited endlessly as an example of what not to do both in the media and in print. According to a blog written by The Economist and posted on July 24, 2009, the Dave Carroll incident cost United Airlines 10 percent of share value, or about $180 million!

Why the Mouse Is Roaring

The “Service Museum” would likely have a special display on the infamous “word of mouth.” It has been the historical means by which customers learned about great service and lousy service beyond their own experience. Sure, they could read the PR drivel and advertising claims the company crafted, but that transmission was suspect to all but the most gullible and uninformed. ... And, there were also the surrogate judges—the Good Housekeeping Seal, the Better Business Bureau, and J.D. Power—that gave us some degree of assurance. But, the most trusted source was what Larry next door had to say.

The computer mouse changed all that. “Word of Mouse” has replaced word of mouth as the most viral means of gossip, grousing, and groaning ... . Today’s Internet connections, whether blogs, tweets, or other forms of social media, have five times the impact of traditional word of mouth. ...

Customers admire service providers who care enough about their organization’s reputation to fight the good fight. You cannot remain silent. But, fight fiction with facts; meet hysteria with confidence. The more customers who witness your passion rather than your anger, the more your intervention will be viewed as a mark of marketplace character, not as a defensive gesture aimed at trying to duck the spotlight.