Twenty-six percent of American consumers say they are "far more likely" to tell family, friends, and coworkers about a bad experience with product or service than a good one, according to LoyaltyOne's Colloquy, which recently released the results of a survey of 3,295 U.S. adults. This anxiety-inducing finding confirms my long-held belief that people are more likely to communicate negative feelings about brands, because they view it as the only means of retribution available to them.
This impression is reinforced by another finding from the Colloquy survey suggesting that consumers who are more loyal to brands are even more likely than the general population (31%) to share bad experiences than good ones. If I had to guess the reason for this, I could sum it up in one word: betrayal. No one likes to be disappointed by something they rely on, especially when they believe they have shown some degree of support and loyalty.
Even worse, I will hazard a guess that these consumers -- being more engaged with a brand -- are also more informed about the brand category in general... meaning other consumers (especially friends, family, and coworkers) may view them as an authority to be heeded in their own purchase decisions. As every pop star knows, you never alienate your core fans. And in case that wasn't bad enough, consider this: a disproportionate group of affluent consumers (30%) also say they are "far more likely" to share bad experiences than good ones.
The Colloquy findings echo some data from other surveys over the last year. Back in June I wrote about the results of a Harris survey of 2,131 U.S. adults, which revealed that (as in the Colloquy survey) a slightly larger proportion of adults use social media to kvetch than give kudos. Specifically, Harris found 34% have turned to social media to air their feelings, positive or negative, about a company, brand or product. Within this group, a subset equal to 26% of the total said they complained about companies, brands or products, 23% said they spoke positively about them, and 19% gave product reviews or recommendations. Overall Harris found that 38% of adults who use social media say they express their preferences online specifically to influence other people.