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Customers air complaints on social media

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Brits avoiding face-to-face confrontation are turning to social media to make their consumer complaints – but only 40% ever get a response, according to a new study. Even those that do get an acknowledgement take more than a week to get it, the research from software and services provider Sage UK found.

One in five (22%) of the 2,000 consumers who were quizzed for the study said they were using tools such as Twitter and Facebook to complain about disappointing customer service. But only 40% of complaints made on social media get a response and 20% say it takes more than a week to get any sort of acknowledgement of their complaint.

Personality and psychological profiling expert Dr Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, of London’s Goldsmiths University, says social media is growing in popularity among “reserved” British consumers who find it difficult to complain effectively.

“Social media makes the process of complaining a lot less confrontational,” he said, “so it’s no surprise respondents to our research are embracing the channel so readily.”

But businesses not fear engaging with social media, he advises. “Rather than having to second-guess customers that might simply have stayed quiet and walked away from a brand for good, the fact that these consumers are now finding a voice on social media gives companies the opportunity to engage with them directly, address their problem, learn from it, and in many cases turn a complainant into an advocate for the brand,” said Chamorro-Premuzic What companies cannot afford to do is ignore complaints or be slow to react. Social media thrives on immediacy, so small issues can snowball very quickly if they are not responded to.”

In a recent Omnibus study, Sage found that only 6% of business owners monitored social media in order to understand their customers better. Only 1% of business owners see engaging with customers through social media as a way to go the extra mile for customers, something 43% of consumers would like to see from the companies they use.

Gary Young, head of customer operations at Sage UK said: “Customers are clearly using Twitter and Facebook a lot more frequently, but many businesses just aren’t ready to accept this shift yet. Companies need to understand this change in the way people are communicating and interacting and engage with their customers, respond to their questions and address their concerns.”

“To put our research into perspective, if you have one thousand customers with an axe to grind, at least 220 of them with make their complaints public on social media. When you also consider that the average Twitter user has 27 followers, it’s easy to see why companies should be taking this seriously. If you have a Twitter account for your business you need to be using it well. There’s no point paying lip service to social media, you need to be actively listening and responding to customers.”

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