Why are companies not responding to customer complaints in social media?

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Though there are several opportunities for using social media as a customer service channel, but while customers are using social media to lodge complaints, the majority of them are not receiving an acknowledgement or response from the service or product provider they are complaining about/to.

A few days ago, a piece of research conducted by Sage UK among 2,000 UK consumers found that while 22% of consumers would complain to a company using social media when they received a disappointing customer experience,  only 40% had received an acknowledgement as a result.

This is not just a problem over here in the UK. As reported in the Financial Times today, a survey carried out by social media management platform Conversocial in order to track US consumer expectations of social media found that while 51% of respondents were using social media to communicate with corporations,  a third of consumers who had attempted to communicate with companies via social networking sites were ignored.

Furthermore, 88% of respondents said they would be less likely to do business with that retailer if their complaint went unanswered.

With this in mind, businesses really need to make sure that their social media strategy assesses customer service otherwise they risk loosing not only existing customers, but also new customers, given that social media gives the casual observer the chance to see if, and how, a brand or business responds to a customer complaint.Social media makes the process of complaining a lot less confrontational and with the modern consumer expecting a better customer experience, businesses need to make sure they use social media in a way that adds value at all main customer touchpoints , including responding to complaints.

So why is there seemingly a reluctance to response to customer complaints in social media? Is it just that businesses are not listening out for complaints properly, or that they still don’t know how to respond? Perhaps it is still fear, in which case businesses need to start seeing the complaint as an opportunity to engage with the consumer directly, address their problem,  and then in some cases, turn a complainant into an advocate for the brand.

Either way, companies can’t afford to stick their fingers in their ears and ignore complaints or be slow to react to customers. As Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic of Goldsmiths University in London points out,  ”social media thrives on immediacy, so small issues can snowball very quickly if they are not responded to effectively and efficiently”.

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3 Responses
  • Leslie
    Dec 19, 2011

    I work in social media and my US clients understand the importance of leveraging social channels as a way to listen to their customers and respond promptly. I can understand lax action from companies who haven’t yet fully adopted or embraced social media as part of the CRM strategy, but I am wondering if this observation is a generalization for all companies or specific to those in Europe/UK?

    Leslie Dec 19, 2011
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  • Jo Stratmann
    Dec 20, 2011

    Hi Leslie,

    Thanks for your comment.

    The research conducted by Sage is UK specific, where as the research by Conversocial points at US companies.

    In essence though I think what you’re saying is correct – the companies who are lax in responding are those who have not thought about how social media can be used as part of their wider business strategy, rather than just for comms or marketing.

    Jo Stratmann Dec 20, 2011
    Reply
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