Customers Demand Service Via Social Media; Brands Fail to Deliver

customer service social mediaOn this blog, I’ve talked a lot about what not to do on social media. There are many common mistakes brands make, but a current one has customers not just turned off, but downright angry. A recent trend amongst consumers is using social media for customer service purposes. Customers will post on the company’s timeline or tweet at them with a complaint, seeking service then and there. Brands have responded in a variety of ways, some positively, but many are either failing to respond or, in some cases, making the problem much worse. To keep up with consumer demands, brands need to start providing proper customer service on social media or risk the negative backlash online.

Why Brands Need to Respond

Why do brands need to start providing customer service on social media? The answer is simple – because consumers want it, and they are not going to stop asking for it any time soon. The reason for this is because now more than ever, consumers are constantly on both their mobile devices and social media. Because companies are there too, consumers expect them to be not just available, but available at all times. Consumers are searching for convenience in seeking customer service, and they have found it on social media.

So what happens when you don’t respond to customer complaints on social media? Well, in the worst-case scenario, the situation could go viral. One customer who was disgruntled with British Airways losing his luggage not only posted about it on Twitter, but also paid over $1000 to promote his tweet and really get the attention of the company. Of course, British Airways promptly responded and solved the problem. But in other cases, such as with Ryanair and British Gas, responding inappropriately to customer complaints on social media can lead to a PR nightmare.

What Exactly Do Customers Want?

An infographic by KISSmetrics goes into more detail about what customers are seeking when they post their complaints on social media. First, most consumers expect a brand to respond within one day. After one week, 50% will stop doing business with that brand. However, if provided with a response, 51% have a positive reaction toward that brand, and 22% will post a follow-up comment that is positive. 89% of consumers report that they have stopped doing business with a brand after receiving poor customer service. Essentially, this data shows that the key to effectively resolving customer complaints is to simply provide a response and do it fast.

Examples of Brand Responses

Here are four examples of consumers seeking customer service from brands on social media – the worst, the bad, the good, and the best.

The Worst:



This example from the Michael Kors Facebook page is the worst type of response because it consists of no response at all. As the first user states, she has received poor customer service multiple times, with social media being her last resort. The second users notes the many ignored customer complaints on the page. Michael Kors is failing and likely losing its customers by providing zero response.

The Bad:


While Subway practices acceptable customer service here by responding, I still classify this as bad because it is quite clearly a form response. Subway does not actually respond to the comment other than using the customer’s name, and they direct her to another venue for customer service. Instead, Subway should offer a proactive response.

The Good:

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Old Navy’s responses are good because they provide helpful, proactive responses that directly resolve the customer’s complaint. They also only direct the second customer to another venue if the offered solution does not work. Finally, the comments are also signed by a real person, which makes the brand more personable.

The Best:


While Old Navy’s response is certainly adequate, American Airlines takes it a step further. They not only responded to a customer problem, but they responded to one that was not specifically directed at them. The customer did include @AmericanAir in her tweet, but she was not directly seeking customer service as she had already filed a claim. However, American Airlines still took the extra step to respond to her problem and ensure it was being taken care of.

How does your brand handle customer complaints on social media?

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Elizabeth K

Elizabeth Kent is a recent graduate with an M.A. in Women’s and Gender Studies from Brandeis University. She earned her B.A. from Smith College with a major in the Study of Women and Gender and a minor in Jewish Studies. Elizabeth recently relocated from the Boston area back to Western Massachusetts, where she spends her free time volunteering with a local non-profit organization. Elizabeth has worked as a writing tutor, archival intern, research assistant, and retail associate. Her interests include studying pop culture, kittens, and making meals with as little cooking as possible.

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