Social media driving increased complaints, but companies deaf to customer questions

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Research finds 83% of Britons unhappy with social media service: retailers and banks attract most complaints

Over a quarter (26%) of Britons are complaining more now they can use social media to communicate with companies – but organisations simply aren’t listening. 17.5% of their complaints are left unanswered and an enormous 83% of those who have complained are unhappy with the response they received.

These are the headline findings of the 2012 Eptica Social Customer Service Study, which surveyed 2,000 consumers across the UK and France on their attitudes to using social media for customer service.

UK consumers used social media to complain most about retailers (21%) and banks (19%) – although there was some regional variation. 33% of those in Northern Ireland criticised telecoms companies, 18% of the Welsh used social media to complain about local government, 15% of Scots found fault with gas companies and 14% of those in the South East criticised train companies.

When asked why they used social media to complain, nearly a quarter (22%) of people said they believed they would receive a quicker response – but they are being let down by businesses. The research found that companies are ignoring simple questions as well as complaints – four out of five consumers (81%) didn’t get an acceptable answer to their questions asked on social media.

“Customers are embracing social media for customer service – but the vast majority of companies are deaf to what they are saying,” said Dee Roche, global marketing director, Eptica. “Our research uncovered a real desire by consumers to use the speed and immediacy of social media to interact with companies only to see their requests shockingly ignored. Not answering basic questions is essentially slamming the shop door in the face of potential customers. Social media provides a megaphone through which complaints aired by unhappy customers can quickly escalate. Companies need to put in place a proper strategy for social customer service, before consumers vote with their feet.”

Across the Channel, nearly a third of French consumers (31%) are complaining more through social media, much more than in the UK (26%) and they are criticising a wider range of sectors. While banks are the number one target for complaints (from 24% of respondents), followed by mobile phone networks (20%) and retailers (18%), a further five sectors (airlines, train companies, telecoms providers, insurers and garages), were criticised by over 10% of consumers polled.

When asked who should be responsible for social customer service, consumers overwhelming selected customer service departments (68% in the UK, 61% in France). A quarter of French consumers thought the wider social media community should answer queries and complaints, perhaps in reaction to poor responses from companies themselves. Just under a fifth (19%) of Britons wanted to receive service from their social media peers.

The 2012 Eptica Social Customer Service Study questioned 2,000 consumers online (half in the UK and half in France) in May 2012.

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