By Marcus Leach

Confrontation-shy Brits are turning to social media to vent their frustrations, but most find their complaints fall on deaf ears, according to research by business software and services provider, Sage UK.

The Sage survey of more than 2,000 UK consumers found more than one-in-five (22%) respondents are now using tools like Twitter and Facebook to complain when a company delivers a disappointing customer experience.

But just 40% of complaints made on social media ever get a response, and a further one-in-five (20%) consumers say it takes more than a week to get any sort of acknowledgment of their complaint.

“Complaining effectively isn’t something that comes easily to British consumers, who are naturally quite reserved," Dr. Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic of Goldsmiths University in London said.

"Social media makes the process of complaining a lot less confrontational, so it’s no surprise respondents to our research are embracing the channel so readily.

“Businesses shouldn’t fear complaints on social media. Rather than having to second-guess customers that might simply have stayed quiet and walked away from a brand for good, the fact that these consumers are now finding a voice on social media gives companies the opportunity to engage with them directly, address their problem, learn from it, and in many cases turn a complainant into an advocate for the brand.

"What companies cannot afford to do is ignore complaints or be slow to react. Social media thrives on immediacy, so small issues can snowball very quickly if they are not responded to.”

A recent Omnibus survey by Sage found just 6% of business owners are monitoring social media to better understand their customers. And while 43% of consumers believe the economic conditions have made it more important than ever for companies to go the extra mile for their customers, just 1% of business owners see engaging with consumers on social media by responding to comments and criticisms as a key part of delivering this.

“Customers are clearly using Twitter and Facebook a lot more frequently, but many businesses just aren’t ready to accept this shift yet. Companies need to understand this change in the way people are communicating and interacting and engage with their customers, respond to their questions and address their concerns," Gary Young, Head of Customer Operations at Sage UK said.

“To put our research into perspective, if you have one thousand customers with an axe to grind, at least 220 of them with make their complaints public on social media. When you also consider that the average Twitter user has 27 followers, it’s easy to see why companies should be taking this seriously.

"If you have a Twitter account for your business you need to be using it well. There’s no point paying lip service to social media, you need to be actively listening and responding to customers.”

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