The other day one of our newer employees asked me what we meant by “the customer rules,” a phrase often used in our marketing efforts at Bridgz.

I thought for a moment and said, “Let me tell you something that happened to me personally early this summer.”

I explained to this employee how I wanted to buy a new gas grill for my deck. My old one had run its course so I was on the hunt for a replacement. It was a Saturday morning in June when I went to the mailbox and pulled out a colorful mailer from one of the big box retailers touting their summer savings.

Front and center on the cover was a great looking gas grill, which carried a great price to boot. I promptly decided that this was the one for me. I grabbed my car keys and headed for the door when my wife asked, “Where are you off to this morning?” I showed her the mailer with the grill on the cover and said, “I’ve found my new grill and I’ll be back soon.”

Before I made it to the garage door, she suggested I look online to see if the retailer might deliver the grill for a nominal fee, saving the work of hauling it myself. That sounded smart, so I went to the computer and investigated. Lo and behold, they offered to deliver the fully assembled product for just $50. This seemed like the perfect solution so I was ready to buy. Just then I noticed another link at the bottom of the specifications that simply said, “Customer Feedback.”  So, I clicked on it.

There were just three commenters, identified by first names with a last-name initial. The reviews basically said this grill didn’t get hot enough. I quickly felt my excitement drain and suddenly my intention to buy turned into disappointment with the product, and the retailer, too.

The feedback from these three strangers stopped me dead cold, as their dissatisfaction outweighed the retailer’s quality printed piece with slick photo and elegantly written copy. With nothing but a few words on a web site, these individuals had the power to alter my buying behavior.

Today, the power of one is real. Access to websites where customers can express their opinions about a product, service, brand or company is a formidable tool.  Beyond that, social media provides a powerful voice for both positive and negative feedback, costing an individual nothing but time. This big box retailer probably spent thousands of dollars creating and mailing this flyer to households across the country, only to have three unknown consumers derail at least one of their sales.

That’s what we mean when we say the customer rules.