Anger at town halls has been in the news a great deal as of late and the public relations difficulties which they have created for the White House provide an interesting backdrop to examine issues of customer satisfaction experienced in the marketplace. A major component of many customer relationship management (CRM) strategies is to avoid retention of those customer segments providing little profitability. As we are seeing in the public domain, to do so may be quite problematic, leading to an unforeseen erosion of position.
Pundits, pollsters and social scientists are trying to understand the degree to which the sentiments expressed at meetings are representative of those of the American public. From business we know that each voice of dissatisfaction represents so many more who too are dissatisfied, but we also know that customers are more likely to register complaints rather than compliments. So, how can we gage emotion and interpret numbers of complaints, and yet more importantly, how can we discern those voices to which we should listen from amongst the noise? One answer is to understand the opinion leaders in our respective markets. Regarding social influences, the more criticism is heard, the more likely others are to be critical. Most often those presenting their opinions for public consumption have an agenda and may understand their potential influence. It is not uncommon for some we satisfy to become proselytizing disciples, or for some dissatisfied to become zealots bent on a firm’s ruin.
We must pay attention to potential opinion leaders but we must also notice the broader implications. With respect to the President, political junkies are looking at declining satisfaction numbers—in business we look to other key metrics to see if opinions in the public sphere gain traction.
The political ramifications will be played out in the coming weeks and longer. A key lesson with respect to business is to understand how dissatisfied customers can disrupt a firm’s marketplace stature. Incorporating customer dissatisfaction as a key feedback mechanism toward strategy development is often a simple but critically effective tactic toward business success.