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The effects of word-of-mouth over time

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In this article, I propose to take a look at word-of-mouth, its effects, but also what causes it. You will also find an interview we conducted with one of the world’s leading specialists in customer satisfaction.


The effects of word-of-mouth over time

Here’s a paradox that few companies understand: the effects of word-of-mouth over time depend on the nature of the message conveyed. Don’t worry, I’ll explain …

As I keep reminding you, there is positive word-of-mouth and negative word-of-mouth. So far, nothing new.

The question that remains, however, is when the effects will be felt. The answer is straightforward: immediately for negative word-of-mouth, and in the medium to long term for positive word-of-mouth.

Why does contrary word-of-mouth produce its effects immediately? Dissatisfaction and frustration are highly emotional processes. Whenever a strong emotion is at work, human beings seek to lower their inner tensions. One way to open the safety valve is to share one’s frustrations with as many people as possible. And to avoid keeping these tensions within oneself for too long, the human being tries to get rid of them as quickly as possible.

A satisfied client informs (medium-term) 5 to 8 others; a dissatisfied client informs 10 to 16 others.

To learn more about customer satisfaction, I invite you to read this page on which we have gathered a great deal of information.

The dynamics of word-of-mouth

Up until 20 years ago, it was believed that word-of-mouth was a result of customer satisfaction. Today, this vision has changed. Our world has indeed evolved considerably and with it consumer behaviour. For example, it is no longer necessary to be a customer (and particularly a satisfied customer) to spread a message, to spread word of mouth. This is what explains a leading figure in the field of satisfaction, Professor Moshe Davidow, in this interview that we recorded with him in March 2020. He also explains the correlations that exist between customer satisfaction on the one hand, and customer experience, emotions and loyalty on the other. An interview of a few minutes, to listen to urgently because it will allow you to have a current vision of the situation.

A compelling example: the 65 degrees restaurant

In terms of word-of-mouth, customer emotions are, therefore, an excellent predictor. A negative emotion generates negative word-of-mouth; a positive emotion generates the opposite.

I had the great pleasure to interview Adélaïde Aymer from the restaurant 65 Degrees in Brussels (Belgium). Her restaurant employs people with disabilities and customers are, therefore led to feel strong emotions when they come into contact with these extraordinary people. We take stock of the situation with her in a fascinating interview. She talks in this podcast (in French) about customer loyalty and these emotional aspects.

To conclude

Remember

  • that a satisfied customer informs (medium-term) 5 to 8 other people
  • an unsatisfied customer tells (in the short term) 10 to 16 others

When you receive a complaint, focus first on the emotional aspects and keep in mind that in these cases, the client is never wrong. So make sure you defuse the emotional bomb and show empathy.

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Author: Pierre-Nicolas Schwab

Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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