Are Social Media Users Less Likely to Complain?

There’s an overused business adage that a happy customer will tell three customers about their experience but a dissatisfied one will tell 7, 100 or even 3000. Until now, I never stopped to think about the fact that only a couple of my 1,000 videos portray a company poorly… and most company references are positive (even when not sponsored). Maybe there’s a reason, and maybe I’m not unlike other social media users…

New research about customer service went beyond marketing hyperbole and showed some actual data about a customer’s word-of-mouth after a positive or negative service experience. It seems an individual receiving good service will tell 9 people, but after bad service they’ll tell 17. So we’re nearly twice as likely to warn people than praise a company. Bad news travels fast (and sells) right? Source: The 2012 American Express® Global Customer Service Barometer.

Now here’s where social-media users differ. We’re telling 42 people about a good experience (and that obviously varies dramatically based on whether someone has a large audience or a “real friends only” Facebook presence). But we’re telling 53 people (only an additional 11, or roughly 25%). Not twice as many people… just 25% more.

best buy sucks
The Geek Squad Hates You

In both cases a person with a bad (verus good) service experience is going to tell more people about it. But, again, non-users of social media tell nearly twice as many people (9 vs. 17), while social-media users will tell just 25% more (42 vs. 53). 

This is surprising when you consider the “bad service experience” videos that have gone viral (United Breaks Guitars or my Geek Squad Sucks, which was ignored by Best Buy so I’m still bitching). Maybe it’s because the minor issues get resolved by attentive well-meaning social media managers… especially if the service victim has a large following. The result often can change the victim to a fan, resulting in more “tweets” or videos chronicling the situation’s resolve… usually the victim just wants a minor gesture (apology, token refund, gift) to feel acknowledged.

So how do you explain the gap?

  • Lack of precision of survey
  • Bad experiences are not for digital, but best left to one-on-one interactions
  • People with “followings” online don’t want to be seen as whiney
  • Something else?

4 Replies to “Are Social Media Users Less Likely to Complain?”

  1. I think, if you expand your study, you will find different populations more or less responding to social media. Young vs. Older or lower income vs higher income or better public education vs. Not so much. Best I can do is offer a few annecdotal snippits.

    We owned a small coffee shop in the City of New Bedford Massachsetts which specialized in roasting coffee & fresh baked European pastries & a variable gourmet lunch. I used to cook at the Ritz Carlton in Boston which is good evidence that I can flip edibles about & make them delicious. Our lpening was a stunning failure to communicate. Despite having the freshest & best prepared food south of Boston, despite being the only coffee roaster east of Providence, despite having helped Polaroid market $35,000 commercial proofing machines, the folk of New Bedford could not be less interested. They wanted stuffed quahogs, dried donuts & crap coffee. We were however a hit with Marthas Vinyard bound folk from California & Manhattan. We literally had morr regulars from LA than New Bedford. We had customers from wealthy towns to our east & folk from dartmouth would call for delivery. New Bedford folk would just complain my coffee & food had too much flavor.

    How did we market? The folks from far away found us in the internet or smelled the beans roasting. We ran a coupon in the local paper for a free coffee. Only 1 person used it & we always donated a coffee to her anyway. Repeat, same result. So we tried a neighborhood rag from the affluent neighborhoods. They came, but NewBedford even with its Moby Dick fame has people that the affluent folk find disturbing. So most stopped coming with appologies.

    New Bedford is very aggressive with parking tickets, so I made a free coffee flyer that resembled the parking tickets in use at the time. Two things happened. The other businesses complained I was advertising to their customers. Duh! The second was everyone who responded to the fake ticket thought they were paying a real parking ticket! Whoa!

    Bottom line, I received better customer via early online media than by using tradition sources. Alas, even to this day, online penetration or comprehension in this under educated population must be included in a detailed study.

Comments are closed.