How Social Media Is Changing The Way Consumers Complain
Social media presents a great way for brands to engage with consumers in real-time about their problems, suggestions or concerns. Before it emerged into the spotlight, making a complaint about a product or service was seen as a painstaking process that required 1-800 numbers, horrible hold music, and distant mail addresses. Most people didn’t bother to complain at all seeing as the process was time consuming and often not warranted for minor issues or concerns. Plus, there was always the lingering question, “will someone even respond?”
Thanks to social media, consumers have access to a quick and easy outlet for expressing their thoughts. Aside from posting, tweeting, blogging and sharing videos on their personal pages, they have the ability to post directly on corporate pages as most brands are now well integrated within the social media scene. While messaging or posting directly to a brands page is convenient, it may not always meet the consumer’s expectations. In a world where everything is so fast-paced and immediate, it’s easy for people to develop unrealistic expectations in terms of how quickly a response should be sent or the issue should be dealt with. If a complaint gains publicity or traction, most companies will give in by offering multiple solutions so the problem can disappear as soon as possible. Even if the complaint is something very minor, a company who responds quickly and does so in a way that allows everyone to see how reactive they are, is a positive in the eyes of the consumer.
In the same sense, making customer service so public has changed the way people express their concern. What was once a refined and productive system has become an outlet for people to simply whine and complain about anything they want.
Companies who are integrated into social media networks are experiencing things they never have before in the realm of customer service. Having someone call in to a customer service line to complain about an ignorant associate is a lot different then having them post it online for millions of people to see and comment on themselves. This social aspect of sharing is very valuable for consumers but not necessarily for the companies who find themselves stuck between a rock and a hard place. It’s difficult to simply shrug off a complaint when it’s posted prominently on your corporate facebook page racking up comments and stirring up your loyal customers.
There is a fine line between good customer service and unrealistic customer service and many companies are pushing past the original guidelines and moving into a realm of desperation in order to handle complaints. When companies give in to consumers just to satisfy the public, the entire customer service process can easily crumble and the company could find itself struggling to stay afloat.
Groubal is an online company who champions customer complaints and demands actions from those responsible. Users can create a login and either submit groubals (complaints) or sign others to ensure a greater opportunity for change. A guest blogger, Dan Zambonini from Content Strategy agency Contentini, did a study from August 13th to August 16th 2010 to find out which companies have the most customer service complaints on Twitter. By searching for “customer service” together with any one of: fail, sucks, worst, poor, bad, terrible or awful, he was able to pinpoint the top 10 companies with the most customer service complaints on Twitter. He extracted the tweets and used an Excel spreadsheet to map the data. Through the study he found over 500 unique businesses were mentioned but AT&T managed to come out on top with over 5% of the total volume of complaints in the survey. Rounding up the top ten were Verizon, Comcast, T-Mobile, Walmart, Apple, Sprint, Best Buy, Delta and Direct TV. For more information about the study and the top reasons why customers complain, please visit their blog.
What matters most, regardless of the medium, is communicating with your consumers. If you receive a complaint, comment back publicly so other page viewers can see how serious you are when it comes to your customers needs. At the same time, it’s important to be realistic with solutions so consumers don’t think that any complaint will warrant a free $20 gift card (for example). As a company, it’s up to you to define good customer service and if you choose to participate in the world of social media, prepare yourself for all the feedback, both negative and positive, as it will help you to grow and develop a strong presence online.