In finance, they teach a concept called ‘information asymmetry’ which is the imbalance of negotiatory power between parties in which one party has more complete information than the other. It occurs to me that such an idea applies to marketing. It used to be that the consumer’s only contact with the company is through targeted marketing communications and with employees strictly trained to talk only within the boundaries of all-purpose scripts. That is to say, the wall between companies and consumers allowed the former to gain an unfair advantage due to incomplete information. A case of an unsatisfied customer stays with the unsatisfied customer (and with their ten friends, but who cares?). No longer.
The internet has torn down the wall and the case of the unsatisfied customer is now public domain. A small local blogger with a hundred readers who got made to wait on the phone for two hours to solve a minor issue. The loyal customer who complained about the unfair treatment she suffered due to a minor infraction of ‘company policy’. That local restaurant you heard of? It’s nearly empty now because of poor reviews on an influential food website. In Japan, Takami Akai of Gainax Productions was pushed to resignation at a company he helped found all because he made some disparaging remarks about a colleague on 2ch, the nation’s largest internet forum. No longer is mediocre or ‘average’ good enough. Average is risky. No longer is planned public exposure of image good enough. Authenticity is required all across the board at all possible points of contact. As Donald Trump once said; “Marketing is 24/7”. Exceptional and remarkable customer service is the only way. I read a book recently called Word of Mouth Marketing by Andy Sernovitz (2009), and my favourite suggestion from it was for managers to hire employees specifically to surf the net to say kudos for praise and to solve any possible problems. Locally, TPG is doing the same thing. I had a problem setting up my internet so I jumped on Whirlpool Forums, lo’ and behold, within the hour a TPG employee posted and fixed my problem. The internet is wide-reaching and ever-pervasive. The internet never forgets.