By STEVE YODER, The Fiscal Times
November 3, 2011
Everyone agrees that angry customers are bad for business—Netflix and Bank of America are two recent victims of consumer outrage. Whether it’s a new product dies after two uses, a service contractor is a no-show, or a business imposes new fees for an old service, burned customers want more than a refund. They want revenge, so they go to the one place where they can tell the world: The Internet.
The angry customer’s path of choice is both social media and for-profit consumer complaint websites that quickly get the word out about their unhappy experiences. Companies are fighting back, however, with lawsuits and new online guerrilla tactics. They’re even hiring online reputation management companies that have arisen to help them.
Of the dozens of sites out there, my3cents.com, complaintsboard.com, and pissedconsumer.com, which launched in 2006 and 2007 respectively, attract the lion’s share of complainants, according to statistics compiled last year by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA). Other sites target specific industries—airlines, Airline Complaints; airlinecomplaints.org, financial advisors, BrokerCheck; cars, AutoBeef; and lawyers and doctors Avvo. Angie’s List, one of the first customer review sites, draws people who want to review local service providers, and announced it surpassed one million members last month.
Some consumer-built sites target one company, sometimes calling for their downfall, like comcastmustdie.com or noboa.blogspot.com about Bank of America complaints.
The federal government is jumping in too—in March the Consumer Product Safety Commission launched Safer Products, SaferProducts.gov allowing consumers to post information on goods that pose safety risks. Facebook and Twitter also have become breeding grounds for consumer complaints—angry Netflix customer tweets figured in the company’s reversal of its disastrous price structure decision, and a Facebook campaign to get people to switch to credit unions probably helped convince Bank of America to quash its monthly $5 debit card fee on November 1.
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