Aussies Use Social Media to Vent Customer Service Annoyances

By Jessica Benton | 19 Sep 2012

Australians are turning to social media channels to voice their frustrations when it comes to customer service, according to a new survey.

In the new digital age, online viral attacks on a brand can spiral out-of-control with consumers quick to use social media networks as a way to vent their frustrations toward retail and service providers.

A study from American Express found that Australians will wait, on average, 14 minutes for customer service on the phone, before hanging up. These results place Australia in third position for phone service waits, behind India and Mexico.

As a way to avoid long phone holds, customers are turning to ‘self-service’ methods like company websites or emails to contact the company at hand, according to the survey. This mode of contact is preferred for ‘simple’ inquiries such as locating a product or checking account balances.

Social media is another contact channel with Australian respondents using social media to get a response from a company at least once in the past year, and a third of these people then turning to Facebook and Twitter to vent their frustrations if their inquiry is not resolved. While social media is not the preferred choice of customer service contact, 46 percent of all respondents say they share ‘bad customer service experiences’ with their social media networks.

Customer Service Institute of Australia’s Professor Brett Whitford says the survey findings are proof consumers are finding new ways to respond to customer service woes.

“People want to receive service on their own terms in a way that suits them. Having multiple channels available such as email, Facebook and a physical presence gives consumers the choice they’re seeking,” he says.

These new contact avenues are forcing many businesses into the limelight for negative reasons through social media vendettas. Apparel retailer Gasp was the target of a viral campaign last year, after the Gasp incident involving a customer and a sales assistant led to a viral email and social media campaign, while Qantas was also caught up in social media gaff.

Qantas used its Twitter account last year in response to the grounding of its fleet, resulting in a huge backlash from angry customers, posting their frustrations via Twitter and demonstrating the power of mass consumption.

Shout Web Strategy’s Michael Jenkins says the power of social media means online businesses need to take a pro-active approach to defend their brand name.

“Whether you’ve created a profile online or not, it’s more than likely that your company already has a web presence, and with this comes an online reputation. Customers increasingly use the web to locate products and services, compare prices, make enquiries and share experiences. So you don’t need to be trading online to find your business online,” he says.

“Social networks like Facebook and Twitter can be a great form of promotion and engagement, but social media can also become word-of-mouth on steroids, with a negative comment having the potential to spiral into an out-of-control viral attack that can tarnish your brand reputation.”

Jenkins says it’s imperative that companies take control with online reputation management to safeguard the company’s image online.

Despite the survey finding, it seems that Aussies remain calm when dealing with customer service representatives. Only 41 percent of Australian survey respondents lost their temper with a customer service provider. Yet, social media avenues beg to differ.

The American Express Global Customer Service Barometer 2012 is an international study from 11 countries, which found that Australians have some of the lowest expectations of customer service in the world. The study explored the attitudes of service in 11 countries.

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