Consumers Using Social Media to ‘Vent’ about, Research Customer Service

April 23, 2008

This article is included in these additional categories:

Household Income | Paid Search | Retail & E-Commerce

When making purchase decisions, affluent online consumers are using social media channels to share their own customer-service experiences and learn about those of others, according to a new study from the Society for New Communications Research.

Some 59% of respondents to a survey said they use social media to “vent” about a customer-care experience.

More than 300 consumers who are active internet users participated in the survey, sponsored by Nuance Communications, focusing on how customer care influences brand reputation in light of the quickly growing adoption of social media.

Other key findings from the report, “Exploring the Link Between Customer Care and Brand Reputation in the Age of Social Media,” include the following:

  • 74% choose companies/brands based on others’ customer-care experiences shared online:


  • 72% research companies’ customer care online prior to purchasing products and services at least sometimes:


  • 84% consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company.
  • 84% consider the quality of customer care in their decision to do business with a company at least sometimes.
  • 81% say blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33% say they believe that businesses take customers’ opinions seriously.
  • Search engines are the most valuable online tools for this research. Those rated of no value include micro-blogging sites like Twitter or Pownce (39%), YouTube (27%) and social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace (22%).

Dell and Amazon were cited more often than any other company when asked which types of companies have done the best job in using social media to respond to customer care issues.

As for industry segments, technology, retail, and travel companies were reported as doing the best job, while utilities, healthcare, and insurance were least likely to receive positive endorsements.

“[T]here is a growing group of highly desirable consumers using social media to research companies: 25- 55-years-old, college-educated, earning $100,000+ – a very powerful group in terms of buying behavior,” said Dr. Ganim Nora Barnes, senior fellow, Society for New Communications Research.

“These most savvy and sought-after consumers will not support companies with poor customer care reputations, and they will talk about all of this openly with others via multiple online vehicles. This research should serve as a wake-up call to companies: listen, respond, and improve.”

About the study: The team of SNCR research fellows who conducted the study included Dr. Nora Ganim Barnes, John Cass, Susan Getgood, Paul Gillin, and Francois Gossieaux, working in conjunction with TWI Surveys, Inc. The final results will be highlighted in the Society’s Journal of New Communications Research and published in a full report later this year.

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