Social media give customers new ways to bite back

When Albert Hirschman published his landmark treatise “Exit, Voice and Loyalty” more than 40 years ago, he unwittingly helped to predict what Twitter might do to capitalism.

In Hirschman’s framework, consumers had essentially two ways to deal with dissatisfaction. They could take their business elsewhere — exit — and if enough others fled, a business might shape up. Or they could gripe — Hirschman used “voice” as a verb — to management.

The problem with exiting has always been that there’s probably a reason you went to Acme Co. in the first place. As for voicing your complaints, well, one unhappy customer isn’t the strongest argument for change.

 Consumers could launch letter-writing campaigns, muster boycotts or man picket lines. But how much effort are most of us willing to expend over a restaurant’s wilted salad or a phone company’s seemingly unreasonable service fee?

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