Why people complain online, in 5 charts

Social media has provided brands with yet another avenue for customer service. But it is a double-edged sword. Just ask United.

A new study by digital agency Corra asked 2,000 people about their poor customer service stories and found many details about why their customers post in the first place, and what they want out of it. Some key findings: Customers consider cable and cellphone companies to be the worst offenders and that most people are not willing to give a company another chance after two negative experiences.

“Particularly for brands that focus heavily in the digital space, it’s crucial to try to reduce friction and be responsive whenever possible to create that human connection,” said Rachel Weir, chief client officer at Corra. “Consumers really respond to that effort, and they’ll reward you for it.”

Here’s a closer look:

Issues consumers are most likely to complain about

While plenty of things that can go wrong in a customer interaction, the worst offense in the minds of consumers is a customer service mishap. Over half of respondents (52 percent) said they were likely to complain publicly if customer service did a poor job resolving their problems, while over 31 percent were likely to complain about faulty products. While policy issues accounted for only about 16 percent of online complains, it has surely been on the rise.

“Brands must lead with action and good deeds, not just words,” said Chris Allieri,founder and principal of Mulberry & Astor, a PR and branding consultancy. “When great customer service is combined with giving back and doing what’s right like Patagonia and Starbucks, it makes great brands.”

Number of chances consumers are likely to give brands

Nearly 90 percent of the survey’s respondents said they’d give a company a second chance before sidelining that brand for another business. Just about 10 percent were unforgiving after the first strike. On average, women were more likely to hold a grudge than men, with 89 percent of men on average willing to give brands a second chance as opposed to 83 percent of women. The most likely group to forgive and forget was men in their 40s, with the least likely group being women in their 60s.

Customers are likely to avoid brands with bad reputations

Nearly 88 percent of participants said that they had avoided a brand because of a bad review on social media. The data was also split by gender, and it was found that women were slightly more likely than men to lodge a public complaint. Women also tended to remember their bad customer service experiences more.

Length of reviews

The data also found that women were more likely to write longer complaints than men on social media (215 characters on average as opposed to 159). Among platforms, women consumers were most likely to complain on Amazon, their own Facebook pages, Yelp and TripAdvisor. Meanwhile, men were more likely to take to Twitter, YouTube, Google Maps and Businesses and Reddit. Both genders were equally likely to post in a Facebook group or on a brand’s actual Facebook page.

Industries with the worst service

Unsurprisingly, some categories of brands attract a lot more consumer complaints than others, including banks, retailers and cable and satellite TV providers. More than 72 percent of the men and 69 percent of the women surveyed said cable companies were the worst in customer service, 54 percent of men and 57 percent of women were frustrated with cellphone providers, and 44 percent of men and 42 percent of women had issues with airlines.


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