The Consumer Power Shift

Businesses are waking up to a new reality in terms of a power shift that has taken place in the market place. Gone are the days where business can dictate terms to their clients. It seems that many small businesses and some large ones are battling to come to terms with this reality.

Recently I penned a letter to 16 000 odd people in HouseCheck’s database where I tried to illustrate this shift by using a complaint that was posted onto Hello Peter a few years back. A large portion of these people are estate agents and judging by the various reactions it is obvious that some people are more attuned to these shift changes than others.

HouseCheck is a national home inspection company (disclaimer – in which I have a small  interest) which supplies comprehensive and snag inspections to buyers and sellers. Because of the way the consumer protection act excludes private sellers and buyers from the act, the only way a buyer can protect themselves from the Voetstoots clause which is common in all sales, is by verifying the true condition of the property upfront.

Although some estate agents are all for home inspections, quite a few are discouraging inspections, because they are scared that they may disrupt the sale. HouseCheck’s argument is that this is an unfair practice because buyers could be prejudiced. I suggested in my article “that in the court of public opinion” this attitude could go against estate agents who were against this practice. The jury is out in terms of what may happen.

Three other incidents recently have reinforced the power of the small man.

In a  much shared post on Facebook, a woman’s claim against Old Mutual for a life policy on her late husbands life was denied on the basis that the man had not disclosed all pre existing conditions. Sadly the pre existing conditions had not killed him, but he was murdered. The wife faced a bleak future as she worked for her late husband in an administrative capacity and now, not only did she loose her income but was also facing a situation where the life policy was denied. Naturally Facebook users agreed with her that the decision by the insurance company was unjust and the post went viral. Old Mutual became aware of this and quickly changed their minds and agreed to make the payout. Their reputation was saved. The destitute policy holder won in the court of public opinion.

Ford Motor Corporation in South Africa and elsewhere took longer to learn their lesson with their reactions to Ford Kuga’s burning. This resulted in the value of thousands of Kuga owners cars being decimated with immediate effect. Ford will not even give a decent trade in value on their own product.

And in another victory for the small man, average South Africans took to Twitter and other social media to take on mega PR agency Bell Pottinger over their racially divisive campaign conducted in South Africa. The DA, feeling the mood of the people grabbed the opportunity and cleverly reported Bell Pottinger to the Public relations and Communications Association (PRCA) and they had their membership terminated for five years.

At the time of writing, the Bell Pottinger CEO has resigned and clients are jumping ship according to media reports. Bell Pottinger have  announced that they are declaring bankruptcy. David has played Goliath. Imagine one of the worlds most respected PR agencies misread this power shift.

Managing your social media reputation is now a key aspect of your business and one not to be taken lightly. Remember your clients are potentially in the driving seat, and it matters not too much what you think, if they are able to whip up some measure of injustice in social media.

Google and Facebook are also considering reviews before making recommendations for your business in their respective search engines.At The Online Marketer we have strategies to handle these aspects of your business.

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