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More than three in four consumers believe that social media platforms will soon either completely replace other means of customer service or at least become the main way of contacting companies, according to new study 

The survey report, entitled 'The Consequences of Ignoring Your Customers', examined consumer expectations about social media, and followed earlier research into retail social media usage which found that two in three (65%) genuine questions and comments were being missed by the largest retail brands.

Perhaps the Conversocial study's most important finding was that, when ignored by companies on social media sites, 45% of consumers said they would feel angry, and a significant 27.1% said they would stop doing business with the offending company altogether.

When confronted with unanswered customer complaints that were posted via a company's social media page or web site, almost all consumers (88.3%) said they would be either "somewhat less likely" or "far less likely" to buy from that brand again.

Despite this, nearly one third of respondents (32.4%) characterised their overall satisfaction with the way in which companies currently use social media sites to communicate with them as either "poor" or "very poor", while 59.6% expressed guarded optimism for future positive developments in the field, and only 8% said they were thoroughly satisfied.

"The message to companies from their customers is clear: if you want to speak to us in social media, you had better be prepared for us to speak back", explained Josh March, CEO for Conversocial. 

"If a company is on Facebook or Twitter, it must be prepared to treat social networks as serious customer service channels. If not, you risk losing not only communications from current customers but also a wealth of communications from vast numbers of potential customers who can now see how you respond to or ignore customer comments."

There is a significant reservoir of customer goodwill that companies can tap from social media, according to a recent Facebook poll which found that 33% of internet users go straight to a company's Facebook page after seeing a friend's recommendation on Facebook. However, while social media sites are clearly a growing frontier of interaction between consumers and companies, most consumers reported inadequate response times, unanswered queries, and unmet expectations.

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