It is amazing what the internet has done for customer recommendation. With a record number of people saying that they search online for reviews of a product before purchasing, we’re now finding that the general public are becoming very savvy about what is and what is not genuine independent praise.
The idea that we can trust real people to give good honest opinions is stronger than ever. So much so that it reflects very badly indeed when this trust is betrayed by a product or service. Earlier this week, the Manchester Evening News revealed that the GMPTA’s (local transport organisation) new publicity drive promoting a congestion charge across the city is in fact falsely portraying members of the public as pro charging.
The people who appear on the site and in direct marketing campaigns are actually models and the images were bought from an American photostock supplier. The case studies that they accompany are fictional and no interviews with the public were done during the production of the promotional literature.
If you read the many comments on the MEN website, it’s obvious that by misleading the public, the GMPTA has alienated a lot of people they were originally trying to impress their views upon. It was also crisis management at its worst when both the PR company involved and the GMPTA denied fabricating any element of the information when they were first challenged.
Trust is the most important element involved in customer relations and the Internet is instilling this ever more deeply. Manchester’s congestion charge has now set itself an even harder task.