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Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000: Running a Business in Today's Consumer-Driven World [Hardcover]

Pete Blackshaw
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In June 2006, a man named Vincent Ferrari had a shockingly combative conversation with an AOL sales rep; he recorded it and posted it on YouTube. More than 62,827 viewings later, AOL's reputation was irretrievably damaged. In the digital age, disgruntled customers are now in the driver's seat, argues Blackshaw in this thoughtful and engaging book. With the advent of Consumerist.com and other venues where customers can blow off steam about bad service or deficient products, consumer generated media is a force to be reckoned with. Since consumers trust other consumers above companies or brands, a company's success depends on its credibility and its ability to gain the trust and support of Web-savvy, outspoken and influential customers. Through remarkable stories of mass consumer advocacy and the power of bloggers and ordinary Joes with an Internet connection and a bone to pick, Blackshaw advises executives on how to build credibility into their businesses through blogs, Web sites and video postings. Informative, energetic and entertaining, this is a marvelous argument for corporate responsibility and accountability, interesting to laypeople and instructive for executives. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Blackshaw, a consumer-behavior specialist and marketer, originates the phrase “consumer generated media,” or CGM, which identifies the new commercial relationship between businesses and consumers and includes all online media such as blogs, video- and photo-sharing sites, social-networking pages, online forums, message boards, and product review sites. In our new world of never-ending consumer-to-consumer “conversation,” we learn how companies should interpret, analyze, and respond to the messages of today’s consumers. Using stories from his experiences with notable Fortune 500 companies, Blackshaw emphasizes the need for companies to be attentive to consumers since they no longer control them. Noting that sooner or later every company will get into trouble, his troubleshooting tips include knowing who are the company’s key influencers, using the corporate blog as a rapid-response vehicle, and what to do when a simple apology is not enough to placate irate customers. The author stresses his conviction that our online world has turned credibility into a company’s most important asset. Excellent book. --Mary Whaley

Review

"This book deserves a spot on the desk of every executive who worries about his company's reputational risk."
-Time Magazine

“A distillation of the experiences of a pioneer in amplifying the voice of the customer. Anyone who wants to understand the world of consumer generated media should read Pete Blackshaw's book.”
-James L. Heskett, Baker Foundation Professor, Emeritus, Harvard Business School


"When bad news hits, you won't have time to read this book -- so you better read it now!.  For marketers coping with a consumer who's skeptical and networked, Pete gives us a first aid kit, a bullet, and a shot of whiskey." 
- Ted McConnell, Director of Interactive/Digital Innovation, Procter & Gamble

“The only way this book could provide a more substantial take on consumer generated media is if Blackshaw allowed his readers to write it themselves.”
-Dave Balter, CEO, BzzAgent

"Blackshaw is absolutely right.  We're experiencing an unmistakable ground shift in how consumers talk to companies. Pete's book calls it out, and lays out a practical road map for managing these new dynamics."
-Beth Thomas-Kim, Director of Consumer Services, Nestlé USA, and Chair, Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals

"Much more than a cautionary tale -- this book helps marketers understand how to build and nurture brands in a world where consumer generated media is growing by leaps and bounds."
-Ted Woehrle, SVP Marketing & Brand Management, Newell Rubbermaid

“Pete Blackshaw really gets it. For marketers and other corporate control freaks, it's about diving in and letting go. As a blogger myself at Sony, I've dogeared several pages from the book that I will be referring back to from time to time. “
-Rick Clancy, SVP, Corporate Communications, Sony Electronics


“Powerful and compelling.  [Blackshaw’s] book lays out a straightforward roadmap for companies and brands to follow to re-engineer the way they listen, respond, and engage with today's empowered consumers!“
-Linnea Johnson, Director, Unilever Consumer Services

"Highly-readable….Proves the importance and value of credibility, and delivers practical advice on how to earn credibility through authentic relationship management."
- Jim Boyce, President, North America, Convergys Corporation

"Provides frank insight…on how marketers and consumer affairs professionals can more effectively navigate this new landscape. Net result: [SATISFIED CUSTOMERS TELL THREE FRIENDS] helps me stay on top of my game. "
-Tom Asher, Head of Consumer Relations North America, Levi Strauss & Co

“"This book is far less about technology or the 'next cool thing' than very simple truths and principles - earning trust and building credibility through listening, responsiveness, dependability and performance. BBB has served as the marketplace voice for these principles for nearly 100 years, and Pete puts them all into a contemporary mission critical context."
- Steven J. Cole, President and CEO, Council of Better Business Bureaus, Inc.

"Pete's book suggests that the fastest growing media is that which consumers create and share themselves. Consumer talk and 'create media' when they have great, authentic and credible customer experiences, and we've known that at Peet's since our inception. This book should be on the bookshelf of every chief marketing officer." -Chris Lansing, Chief Marketing Officer, Peet's Coffee & Tea

"If you really want to understand why listening, responding, and nurturing community with your loyal customers truly matters, Pete's book is an essential read.  His six drivers of brand credibility are not only spot-on, but hugely relevant to today's digitally-charged environment." -Diane Hessan, President, CEO Communispace

"A practical how-to guide -- filled with great examples and stories -- on how to build your brand authentically in today's world." - Tony Hsieh, CEO - Zappos.com

"We invited pete to deliver a presentation on Tell 3000 book themes and the response among attendees -- including top global 500 companies - was phenomenal. His book should be on the must-read list of anyone in the customer relations management industry."
-Randy Saunders, Marketing Manager, Cincom Systems

"In June 2006, a man named Vincent Ferrari had a shockingly combative conversation with an AOL sales rep; he recorded it and posted it on YouTube. More than 62,827 viewings later, AOL's reputation was irretrievably damaged. In the digital age, disgruntled customers are now in the driver's seat, argues Blackshaw in this thoughtful and engaging book. With the advent of Consumerist.com and other venues where customers can blow off steam about bad service or deficient products, consumer generated media is a force to be reckoned with. Since consumers trust other consumers above companies or brands, a company's success depends on its credibility and its ability to gain the trust and support of Web-savvy, outspoken and influential customers. Through remarkable stories of mass consumer advocacy and the power of bloggers and ordinary Joes with an Internet connection and a bone to pick, Blackshaw advises executives on how to build credibility into their businesses through blogs, Web sites and video postings. Informative, energetic and entertaining, this is a marvelous argument for corporate responsibility and accountability, interesting to laypeople and instructive for executives. "
-Publisher's Weekly

About the Author

PETE BLACKSHAW is executive vice president of strategic services at Nielsen Online. A former coleader of interactive marketing at Procter & Gamble and a graduate of University of California at Santa Cruz, and then Harvard Business School, he has been on the cutting edge of online media, consumer opinion, and word-of-mouth behavior for more than a decade, and is quoted frequently in the media. He lives in Cincinnati, Ohio.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.

Chapter 1
The Credibility of the Commons and the Core Credibility Drivers


In his famous treatise "The Tragedy of the Commons," Garrett Hardin demonstrates the fundamental conflict between individual interests and the common good. Hardin describes how, when a plot of land is commonly available to all the farmers in a village, one farmer after another brings his livestock to graze, blind to the inevitable consequence of depleting the land through overgrazing. Writes Hardin:


Adding together the component partial utilities, the rational herdsman concludes that the only sensible course for him to pursue is to add another animal to his herd. And another. . . . But this is the conclusion reached by each and every rational herdsman sharing a commons. Therein is the tragedy. Each man is locked into a system that compels him to increase his herd without limit--in a world that is limited.


In the twenty-first century, consumers' attention, and trust, is like that commons--a limited resource that is easily depleted. In today's world of high-speed broadband and commercial-free TiVo, consumers have less attention and patience for advertising and marketing than ever before. Ad saturation, deceptive messaging, and mismanaged expectations contribute to consumers' dwindling trust in companies.

So businesses must work even harder to maintain market share, reinforce brand messages, and communicate new ideas, in order to preserve their competitive advantage--in other words, get more use out of the commons than the other farmers. But when businesses simply spend ad dollars to buy awareness without developing strategies to cultivate credibility and earn trust, they will run into trouble. For there no longer exists a top-down relationship between businesses and consumers; while marketers used to have control over the message and could count on the masses to follow along whether they liked it or not, today, the consumer is the boss. In a speech given in October 2006, Charlotte Otto, global external relations officer for Procter & Gamble, said we are delusional if we think that, as communications practitioners, we can "control" the message or "manage the medium." "Now more than ever," she said, "consumers own our brands. Consumers own our messages. Consumers own the conversation about how, where, and if they invite our brands into their lives."

Which brings us back to credibility. Credibility may not be on your balance sheet, but it's the best asset you've got. Credibility is the only valid currency in this vast and noisy marketplace. So what exactly constitutes credibility, and how do you learn how to harness it?

Credibility in today's marketing environment is the product of six core drivers. Most of them are interrelated, but they require different strategies and tactics to fully realize. These critical credibility drivers are

1.      Trust
2.      Authenticity
3.      Transparency
4.      Listening
5.      Responsiveness
6.      Affirmation


1. Trust

Trust is perhaps the most critical driver of credibility. Trust implies confidence, dependability, and faith in a company or product. It is achieved through honest, ethical, straightforward, consistent, and predictable business practices. Unfortunately, trust is a diminishing resource for today's businesses. As a 2004 study by Intelliseek and Forrester Research found, consumers trust other consumers far more than they trust companies or brands, and they consistently distrust marketing techniques used by brands. This finding was recently reaffirmed in a 2007 Nielsen global trust study. Virtually every global region lined up similarly.

Trust is the credibility driver that is most closely linked to performance. After all, who is going to trust a product or service that doesn't perform as promised? Remember, a brand is a promise, and consumers assess brands by the extent to which they live up to that promise. Trust also includes an element of predictability. Consumers tend not to like nasty surprises. Ask yourself: Do your company's ad campaigns stretch the truth? Do your claims match what the product can actually do or deliver? Does your product or service consistently and predictably perform as promised? Companies that nurture trust with consumers can honestly answer yes to these questions.
But this isn't always enough. It's important for companies to adhere to a policy of honest, straightforward communication on the Web as well. Companies with high levels of trust don't create blogs pretending to be written by consumers, they don't "seed" message boards with positive comments supposedly from consumers, and they always present truthful and useful information on their Web sites. As multiple studies conducted by Nielsen showed, brand Web sites are the second most "trusted" communications vehicles after word of mouth. And intuitively this makes sense: After all, Web sites are there to help consumers find information and solve problems.
Here are five examples of how companies have established and maintained high levels of trust among their customers.

Lands' End has built a name for itself by nurturing a trust-based relationship with consumers. The mail-order house's clothing and apparel consistently measure up to its claims, and the company is exceptionally responsive if consumers question that trust. It makes a sincere effort to manage every consumer response and to replace any unsatisfactory product. The Lands' End product guarantee is unconditional. It reads: "If you're not satisfied with any item, simply return it to us at any time for an exchange or refund of its purchase price. We mean every word of it. Whatever. Whenever. Always. But to make sure this is perfectly clear, we've decided to simplify it further. GUARANTEED. PERIOD." The Lands' End call center is attentive to all calls, and customer service is considered the highest priority. The company has 24/7 toll-free lines, and each of the 200,000 e-mails it receives annually gets a personal response. Lands' End Live even lets consumers talk or "chat" online directly with Lands' End call support folks while shopping at Landsend.com. Consumers trust that Lands' End's products and customer service will always meet or exceed their expectations, and the net result is extraordinary high levels of loyalty and an off-the-charts digital trail of positive consumer-generated media.

Johnson & Johnson is another trusted company, with a hundred-year tradition of open, transparent communication, even in times of crisis. Johnson & Johnson produces thousands of branded health-care products, including toiletries, baby products, pharmaceuticals, and medical diagnostic equipment. Can you even compete in these categories without a heavy dose of trust in the equation? The former CEO James Burke's honest and sincere handling of the Tylenol tampering crisis in the early 1980s is legendary. The brand not only showed genuine compassion for the people who got sick from taking the tainted drugs but also took extraordinary steps to rebuild consumers' trust and confidence. When the brand was put back on store shelves, Johnson & Johnson changed its packaging to include three layers of tamper protection, two more than recommended by the Food and Drug Administration.

Canon USA, maker of a range of electronics products, from camcorders to digital cameras, has set a higher bar for trust in a product category marred by high levels of frustration and distrust. While Canon's customer service operation suffers from many of the same troubles as the electronics industry as a whole, the company is building credibility through its commitment to quality and innovation. Canon spends approximately 10 percent of its net sales on research and development each year, nearly twice the percentage of its key competitors. High-quality products nurture trust, which is expressed by a preponderance of positive online ratings and reviews, as well as high levels of consumer loyalty and repeat purchase. Consumers respond favorably to the Canon sales force, one of the most skilled in the industry, and this too makes for fantastic CGM. As a result, Canon consistently outperforms other major electronics brands, was named among the most admired companies by Fortune magazine, and ranked number 25 of one hundred top brands by Business Week magazine.

Southwest Airlines consistently tops the CGM charts on PlanetFeedback.com and receives consistent positive online buzz. This airline cultivates trust by carefully managing consumer expectations and making each and every business decision on the basis of its single product claim: low prices. In fact, when an employee suggested the airline might offer a light in-flight meal on the Houston to Las Vegas flight, founder and then CEO Herb Kelleher shot it down immediately because it would have driven up ticket prices. But consumers don't mind bringing their own snacks on a Southwest flight. Why? Because when they fly Southwest, they don't expect a luxury experience; instead, they trust they are getting exactly what Southwest promises: the lowest ticket prices, period. This credibility has gone a long way to generate positive CGM for the company and is one of the reasons why Southwest is one of the few airlines in the business to actually turn a profit.
Mazda, on the other hand, is still reeling from the hit its credibility took when it was discovered that the "consumer blog" the company created was in fact a stealth effort by its advertising agency. Bloggers identified the deception immediately and tarred and feathered Mazda for the breach of trust. And because a digital trail is indelible, the backlash follows the automaker to this day; if you search "Mazda blog" on Google, all you will see is hostility. Mazda violated the trust principle and is still paying the pr...
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