WORD OF MOUTH: If You Can’t Think of Anything Nice to Say, Think a Little Harder

Are we more likely to tell people about the bad experiences or the good experiences we have with a product or service? A new survey commissioned by MasterCard International and conducted by Yankelovich Partners sheds some light on the matter. Dealing specifically with restaurant-goers’ ‘dining experiences,’ the MasterCard Service Survey finds more good word of mouth per satisfied customer than bad word of mouth per dissatisfied customer: ‘Restaurant-goers report that they tell an average of six people about a positive dining experience. . . . By contrast, those who have had a bad dining experience tell five people about that experience.’ Given the culture of complaint in which we live, the favorable ratio of good-mouthing to bad-mouthing comes as something of a surprise. If a similar pattern holds for consumers’ pronouncements on the other products and services they buy, it suggests marketers can displease 9% more people than they please without suffering a predominantly negative reputation among those who hear about the brand secondhand. Of course, such numbers can’t indicate whether the people being told about these good and bad experiences pay much heed to what they’re hearing – or whether dispraise is delivered with more passion than praise. Human nature being what it is, though, one suspects we give more credence to acquaintances’ negative reports than to positive ones when deciding how to spend our own money.
Copyright Adweek L.P. (1993)