By Daniel Hunter

As the latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index figures are released by the Institute of Customer Service KPMG is today (Wednesday) urging consumer-facing businesses to give greater attention to social media, or risk exposing themselves to a wider platform of dissatisfied customers.

“While British customers have often tolerated poor service in the past, the rapid growth of social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have given rise to a consumer more prepared to voice their discontent in an effort to resolve problems with purchases of goods and services or with performance," Mark Guinibert, customer & channel partner at KPMG Management Consulting, said.

"What’s more, even if it is limited to 140 characters, they know that a well worded comment is enough to damage brands.”

Mark’s comments come in the wake of research which shows that 86 percent of consumers spend time on social networking sites, every day, with more than a quarter dedicating more than 2 hours per day to social networking activities. One third of consumers also admit to being influenced by ‘fan pages’ on social networks.

“As the economy continues to bite, customers are also less likely to part with hard earned cash if they feel they are not getting value for money," he added.

"But this doesn’t just mean businesses should focus solely on price. The old adage rings true — the customer is king, but if they don’t feel like royalty they are less likely to return and that is something few businesses can afford right now.”

Against this backdrop, KPMG is offering guidance to businesses struggling to come to terms with the ‘social media savvy customer’.

Top tips include:

silence is not golden: failure, or a lack of willingness, to engage with customers over social media is no longer an option. Customers appreciate honesty when things go wrong and will give credit for it — but silence is likely to be greeted as an admission of fault and publicised through frustration

focus can win hearts and minds: find out what matters to the customer and, in an age where resources are tight, put all your efforts here, even if it is at the expense of other aspects of your business. You can’t excel at everything, all the time, so focus on what the customer demands

self service is customer service: the transaction shouldn’t be the beginning and end of customer experience. Self-check in at airports is the perfect example, so give customers greater control over the buying process and they will feel more in control of the relationship.

“The increasingly savvy consumer wants to be served with quality and integrity," Mark concluded.

"It has never been more important for retailers and service providers to focus on customer relationship management — but rather than wait to fix a problem, issues should be rectified at source. Anything less and the only thing we will see is a rise in customer dissatisfaction and an increase in customer churn.”

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