By Daniel Hunter

The power of social media in enabling businesses to deliver good online customer service and the dangers it presents in allowing consumers to expose bad customer service experiences have been highlighted by a YouGov survey of over 2000 UK consumers, commissioned by online customer helpdesk Sirportly.

46% of people said they now count on social media when making an online purchasing decision, proving that the impact of word of mouth has translated seamlessly from real life into online conversations. Companies engaging with customers via social media have an opportunity to engineer this in their favour.

However, 55% of under 35s say they use social media to vent about bad customer service (35% of all ages) — suggesting they realise that exposing bad customer service can damage a brand’s reputation and is therefore an effective way to ‘get revenge’ on a company they’ve been mistreated by.

Regular social media use means Gen Y is 14% less likely to receive a slow response or no response at all — suggesting a correlation between web-savvy consumers and their ability to track down a swift online customer service response.

Three times as many people use Facebook to vent about bad customer service than Twitter, implying a feeling that customer service horror stories are best shared with friends. People who use Facebook experience fewer customer service problems than users of other social media sites (34% of Facebook users, 40% across the social media board).

“Not responding to customers effectively over social media platforms is reputation suicide," Adam Cooke, creator of Sirportly, said.

"With the impact of word of mouth via social media getting stronger by the day, it’s getting more and more important to both avoid annoying customers in the first place and to be able to defend your brand when it’s being publicly bad-mouthed.”

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