In 1995, software engineer Craig Newmark created a private email distribution list to keep his friends informed on local events in the San Francisco Bay Area.
A year later he migrated the list onto the web and it began to grow as a place where one could buy and sell pretty much anything (including sex at one stage in the company’s history).
Craigslist now serves more than 20 billion page views per month, putting it in 37th place overall among websites worldwide and 10th place overall among websites in the United States, with more than 49.4 million unique monthly visitors in the United States alone and coverage in 70 countries.
The company is still privately owned and fiercely confidential about its finances but as long ago as 2007, some commentators speculated that annual revenues were over $150 million.
Not an Apple but not bad for a guy with an idea that touched the imagination of a global population keen to have a forum in which personal preferences and opinions could be exchanged without the influence of “big business”.
Although Craigslist exists primarily as an early version of e-Bay (who once owned a stake in the business) it was also the precursor of the online review, a phenomenon that has inexorably dominated the life of the retailer in recent years.
Back in the day, we waxed lyrical about “Word of Mouth” being the best (and cheapest) way to grow our businesses. That really did mean one person telling another, one at a time, about how good (or bad) your product/service experience had been for them.
The concept is simple. If I trust you and you trust this product/service, then I will trust your judgement.
Word of Mouth is still important but, like an Independence Day alien craft obliterating the daylight on a bewildered populace, has been overshadowed by “Digital Reputation”.
As a retailer of products and services, your Digital Reputation is searchable, visible and inescapable.
You are one review away from delight or disappointment and there is no hiding place.
Whether it’s Google, Facebook, Trip Advisor, dental review sites or comments on individually owned social pages, the customer is now in command and, whereas in the good old days we had to gird up our loins and ask a patient/client for a testimonial, we can now find ourselves at the receiving end of glowing praise or frustrated anger.
Which, of course, is a good thing.
To quote Harry Beckwith “there is no performance without accountability and no accountability without measurement.”
We should all be internally measuring our business systems in real time – our customer service standards are now being measured whether we like it or not.
So here are some basic rules that you might want to share with your team:
Our Digital Reputation
- Almost all of our patients are connected to their family, friends and colleagues via the web
- We live in a world of digitally educated patients who know that they can post comments and reviews on their own social media channels and on unmoderated review sites such as Google and Facebook
- Every customer service experience that we deliver can be a Moment of Truth – a moment of disappointment or delight that has a disproportionate effect on the patient
- Patients can and will comment on those Moments of Truth. As they say in the music business, “you are only as good as your last hit”
- If you wear a name badge, you are “gifting” your name to the patient, that is de facto permission for your name as well as the business name to be used in any review they may post. You are acting as an ambassador for the business. You are on stage. The choice is yours as to whether that review is positive or negative
- If we can create a positive Digital Reputation via exceptional Moments of Truth, it can help to grow our business, encourage the very best new patients to seek us out and create an atmosphere of confidence in the practice – we can be proud of what we do and the way that we do it
Little did Craig Newmark know what he was unleashing when he created his email list.
I wonder how long it will be before patients/clients are commenting on their experiences via Facebook Live?