The Data Digest: How Consumers Complain About Poor Service

Last week my colleague Andrew McInnes blogged about his report "How Consumers Complain About Poor Service",  in which he analyzed Forrester’s Technographics® data to find out how consumers provide feedback about bad service experiences.

His big takeaway is that consumers are still much more likely to provide feedback directly to companies through more traditional channels (like surveys, phone calls, email, and postal mail) than provide feedback through social channels. More specifically, 71% of US consumers who had unsatisfactory service interactions in the past 12 months provided feedback through at least one traditional channel (including email), while only 16% provided feedback through any of the social channels we asked about.

Despite the buzz around social media, this data shows that the majority of customer feedback comes directly to companies via surveys, phone, and email. Organizations should implement sophisticated voice-of-the-customer programs that use text analytics and other technologies to mine this information to better understand customers' needs and the issues they're dealing with, identify best practices, and come up with improvements whenever possible.


How customers complain - social channels are an amplifier.

Is anyone thinking the same as me? 'Only 16% provided feedback through any of the social channels we asked about', seems to forget the fact that these channels are visible to the friends and followers that someone might have who will see these compalints.

Surely the point about these social channels, and why they are so important, is that they amplify people's thoughts and opinions and that someone complaining directly to a company means their letter or call might only reach one person, whereas the same letter on Facebook, Twitter or a Blog could reach thousands of existing customers and prospects.

Or am I missing something?

It depends

It depends on who your friends are (and if they are paying attention) and who that one letter reached.

If I posted a complaint about a product on my wall, I doubt anyone would do anything other than say "ss". It's of little value if the vendor doesn't see it. I don't know about most people, but if I just had a problem, I'm not likely to follow that company just so I can post it.

On the other hand, I wrote a letter to the president of a car company I had a problem with and ended up getting a new car.

Targeting is key.

Social Media Monitoring tools

Companies can now see anything that's written about them, their products and their competitors that's publicly available on the social web - that includes all blogs, the whole of Twitter and Facebook posts written by individuals if the privacy settings allow - you don't have to post or tweet directly a company directly for them to hear you - but how many are listening?

This is why the conclusions of this report baffle me. One letter or phone call is just that. All power to the companies who address these things and well done on getting a new car! But for those who tweet or blog that company x has let them down badly, this is surely an area businesses need to focus on now.

You're right, targeting is always the key and SMM tools allow brands to target their key influencers. Someone complaining on Twitter with 10,000 followers is a more of an issue than one phone call or email.

Customer feedback and social media

Richard, Sessylt,
thank you for your comments.
Richard, you are absolutely right that social media is an important channel to watch with regards to customer feedback. My point was that it shouldn't be the only channel. To get a complete view of customers' feedback, and built a balanced Voice of the Customer program, companies should also invest in ways to gather and analyze customer feedback from more traditional channels. It's harder to do, yet very important. You can read more about that in this post:

Something else that came up in your comments was the influence and reach social media has versus traditional media. Consumers trust their friends and family most when it comes to making a decision. So when somebody complains to them about a certain brand or product, the influence is actually very big, even if it's a small group of people (who then tell the story to their friends and family ...).

However, the influence can be measured easier in the online world. Forrester has developed a model for this, it's called Peer Influence Analysis. To read how it works and what it means, please read this post:

Hope this helps,
Reineke Reitsma

To start diagnosing service

To start diagnosing service problems and driving improvements, customer experience professionals should align their voice of the customer (VoC) activities with customers' feedback preferences. Assurances of resolving the difficulties and have spent millions of dollars to install new equipments never get fulfilled for months.


Missing the Point?

While I appreciate the information, I think everyone has missed a major point. It's as though the original survey collected data it didn't want to deal with. At least to my mind, the most important fact is that 69% TOLD their personal network about the problem. As far as I know, "word of mouth" communication is still the most powerful recommendation or condemnation.

Admittedly, I'm not sure what to do with that fact. Perhaps it's a key. The company should fix all problems to the delight of the people complaining, no matter what the cost is. Why? Because those satisfied (formerly complaining) people are highly likely to talk to their personal network and praise the company.

- Michael Lovas