From ihatestarbucks.com to boycottwalmart.meetup.com, irritated customers have launched hundreds of gripe sites to air their grievances against companies. The practice is so widespread that some firms proactively buy unflattering domain names to keep other people from buying them. Xerox, for example, registered xeroxstinks.com, xeroxcorporationsucks.com, and ihatexerox.net. About 20,000 domain names end in “sucks.com.” About one-third of these sites are registered to none other than the companies they slam; owners include Walmart Stores, Coca-Cola, Toys “R” Us, Target, and Whole Foods Market.
A number of factors influence what we’ll do after we’ve been wronged. People are more likely to take action if they’re dissatisfied with expensive products such as household durables, cars, and clothing than for problems with inexpensive products. Ironically, consumers who are satisfied with a store in general are more likely to complain if they experience something bad; they take the time to complain because they feel connected to the store. And, if a company resolves the problem, a customer feels even better about it than if she hadn’t complained in the first place! The moral: Although nobody likes criticism, organizations should encourage people to complain for these reasons:
- They get the chance to correct the situation.
- They will avoid an escalating problem that results when consumers take to social media to let others know they’ve been treated badly. People are more likely to spread the word about unresolved negative experiences to their friends than they are to boast about positive occurrences.
- They collect valuable insights about customers’ experiences that will (hopefully) help them to improve for future customers.
- If the consumer does not believe that the store will respond to her complaint, she will be more likely to simply switch than fight as she just takes her business elsewhere.