Buyer Beware Becomes Vendor Beware

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Back in the day you did business with people you knew.  The corner store, so-and-so’s husband or cousin, a friend of a friend.  There was a relationship and you knew who to talk to if something went wrong or wasn’t as expected.

Then population and technology grew.  No longer do we know the people we’re doing business with – they may live in the next town or even state, and with the Internet, they could live on another continent and you’d never know.

Somewhere along the way came the phrase “caveat emptor” or “buyer beware”.   I often think of this in the same category of the stereotypical used car salesman in a plaid suit promising how fabulous the deal is that he’ll get us on this particular car when we’re not even sure we want it – like the one from the “National Lampoon’s Vacation” movie with Chevy Chase.

It used to be said that the average person shared a “happy experience” (good movie, pleasant dining, etc.) with 2-3 people and a “negative experience” with upwards of 7.

Then came Facebook, Twitter, Google +, blogging, the list goes on.  The average person now has the ability to instantly (literally) share with her community exactly what she’s thinking about a recent experience:

  • Have a bad meal at a local restaurant – post it on Facebook and share with all your friends
  • Flight delayed by your airline – Instagram a picture of the delay board to all your social media outlets simultaneously with your thoughts
  • Feel you’ve been poorly treated, for whatever reason, share with your world

Think about it – hundreds or thousands of friends instantly alerted.  And those comments spawning other comments and friends sharing with their friends who share with their friends.

Within moments your customer’s experience (good or bad) has the ability to be read by thousands of people.

“Caveat venditor.”  Vendor beware.

While caveat emptor remains, it’s been joined by caveat venditor.

Is this a bad thing?

Absolutely not.  Good experiences have the ability to be shown just as quickly – such as my recent happy experience ordering from Ba6 Botanicals online (shared via Pinterest, Facebook and Twitter to a community of over 8,000).

What we, as small business owners, need to remember is that every customer and client has the ability to share about their experience – whether raving fan or unhappy customer – and much of what we do, or don’t do, defines that experience.

My Request to You

So what are we to do?

First, you want to run through your customer and client processes.  Are they set up to provide a good experience or, Extreme Client Care™?  If so, how do you ensure your processes are followed?

If not, what needs to change?

And what happens when something does go awry, as it will at some point?  Whether your businesses “fault” or not?  What do you do?

My policy?  Accept responsibility when warranted and do my best to make it right.  What’s your policy?

Caveat venditor.