How Safe Is Your Business Reputation From One Irate Customer?

Bad Roast Beef

Not too long ago my family and I went to a local restaurant for dinner. We ordered dinner, waited and waited some more. After waiting for what seemed like a much longer time than normal, our dinner arrived. I ordered a roast beef sandwich. Now where I come from roast beef sandwiches are made with very thinly sliced pieces of roast beef, piled high on a Kaiser roll with a slice of provolone and maybe some horseradish. What I received was nothing like my expectations.

What I was given was a sad excuse for a sandwich indeed. The slices of roast beef were thrown on my sandwich. Even if it was presented neatly, the slices were so thick and tough I couldn’t chew through it. It was hands down the worst sandwich I’ve ever eaten.

So, what did I do? Well, under certain circumstances I would complain. In this case, we were under a time crunch and I didn’t have time to wait for another sandwich so I suffered in silence.

Eventually the waitress came back to give us our check. Upon seeing an unfinished sandwich she asked “Is everything ok with your meal?” to which I replied, “No, it was actually really awful.” She shrugged her shoulders not quite sure what to say next and left to get our check.

So where is this all going? Why am I telling you this story? Simple, I’m telling you this story because I have an audience. I’m an influencer.

Think about any time you’ve had a good or bad experience at a store. You probably told at least one person; especially if your experience was lousy. You can bet that I told quite a few people about my lousy andwich. In fact, if I told you the name of the restaurant you would think twice about going there. I’ll spare the restaurant the embarassment though because that’s not the point.

Your Customers Have Influence

The point of the story was not to bash the restaurant. It was to remind you that customers carry influence. In today’s world their influence has never been greater.

Let’s go back in time a little bit, say twenty years ago. If I had the same roast beef experience who could I influence? Well, suppose my bad roast beef sandwich was delivered to me in 1991. The next night, I was out with a couple of friends and happened to retell the story. I’ve influenced maybe three or four people.

It’s possible that the experience was so bad that those people went and told one or two more other people. The maximum number of people that likely heard about my bad roast beef sandwich is twelve. Not too many people, certainly not enough that the restaurant has to worry about losing any business.

Let’s fast forward now to today. Now, instead of talking to some friends I immediately come home, hop on my computer, fire up Facebook and type the following status update “Wow, worst roast beef sandwich ever. Waitress clueless. Stay away from (name removed).”

Maybe I didn’t even make it home. Using my iPhone I likely could have taken a picture of the sandwich and updated my status all while I was chewing through the fatty meat.

What kind of impact might that have? Plenty.

The (Social) Network Effect

Same lousy sandwich, same unhappy customer, unbelievable influence and reach. A single bad experience could cost your business hundreds or thousands of dollars. This is because of the explosion of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.



96% of US Household use social networks.
Source: comScore April 2012


Over 96% of the US Internet population uses a social network. Over 70% are on Facebook alone. These people, your customers, have the ability to influence dozens of their friends just by simply posting how much they loved or hated their experience on their social networking profiles.

Each of one of these customers also has a pretty big group of people that they can influence. The average # of “friends” that a Facebook user has is 130.

You read that right — 130 friends.

More importantly, this stuff doesn’t go away. A good or bad comment about your business that used to be part of a conversation among a group of friends has become an online testimonial about your business that is around forever.

All is not doom and gloom however, in fact, it’s really the best time ever to be a small business owner. With a little marketing savvy you can tap into the conversation that your customers are having about you, influence it and use it to build your business in ways that were not possible twenty years ago.

It all comes down to loyalty.

Will they recommend your business to their friends or family?

The easiest way to find out if a customer likes your business is to ask them if they would recommend your business to a friend or family. It’s easy to understand why. When someone makes a recommendation they put their name on the line. Most people don’t do that lightly.

Think about your own behavior. If someone asks your opinion on something you’ll probably answer one of three ways:

  1. You’ll give a glowing recommendation. “I love this widget you should totally get your-self one!”
  2. You’ll give a scathing criticism. “They f*ing suck.”
  3. Or, you’ll be ambivalent. “Eh, it gets the job done.”

Turns out, we can quantify these three types of answers in a way that will help you improve the quality of your business.

In the next post, we’ll look talk about how.

Have you shared good (or bad) experiences with local businesses on a social network? Share your experience in the comments.


  1. A business’s reputation often dictates its sales. A bad reputation leads to a lack of willingness on the part of the consumer to purchase a product or service from the business. You don’t need to trash your business and start a new one to rebuild your reputation; confronting the problem that has led to your company’s poor reputation will result in people returning to your business.

  2. Well, in that case the restaurant owners won’t be happy with the social media ;)! I agree with you because it really happens.Though it’s tough to manage all kinds of demands all the time but we know that the owners also try their best to satisfy their clients but sometime it just doesn’t work. So, both side should more considerable. Good luck for everyone.

  3. Hi Joe . Thanks for the share . I completely agree that customers carry a strong influence in today’s world. Due to the explosion of social media one bad customer can give business a hefty blow. In today’s world mostly consumers carry out research on the internet so the information that shows up about one’s brands plays a vital role . Wonderful share .
    Purnima recently posted..Secret Weapons To Dominate Your MarketMy Profile

  4. Well, that’s really horrible if your business get bashed in social media among people. As you said 90% American uses social network, so if they feel something lousy like you feel for that restaurant they of course mention through some of the top level sites and it will create a bad impact in any business. There may be ups and down in any business, of course from an unsatisfied customer! See nobody is perfect in any business, all people working on it, and doing their best to get them into top, but minor lacks in any business, may let down your business.

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