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Are You Listening?

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How many times have you heard the adage that complaints are good for business? Hopefully often enough to have taken the advice to heart.

A recent poll conducted by Maritz Research and its social intelligence arm, evolve24, finds that with social media revolutionizing the way consumers communicate with businesses, retailers cannot afford to turn a deaf ear to any of the ways shoppers may voice complaints.

The research found that consumers who have used Twitter to complain about their customer experience overwhelmingly want the offending company to listen to their comments -- and they want their gripes addressed.

The study, conducted in September, found that while only a third of respondents actually received some type of follow-up after tweeting a complaint, 83 percent of those who received a follow-up said they “liked” or “loved” hearing from the company they’d complained about. Just under 75 percent of those people who received a response were “very or somewhat satisfied,” while a little more than 15 percent said they were either “very or somewhat dissatisfied” with the company’s reply.

What stands out, however, is that two-thirds of respondents who complained on Twitter didn’t receive an answer to their grievance. Not surprisingly, 86 percent would have “liked” or “loved” to hear from the company, but 63 percent said they would be turned off if the company contacted them about something other than their complaint.

“In today’s business environment, social media is having a profound impact on the level of service customers expect,” says Anthony Sardella, senior vice president and managing director at evolve24. “Businesses cannot effectively compete without being tuned in to social media to improve the customer experience. But they must get the messaging right. The best brand marketing provides responsive customer service and does not use a customer experience event as an opportunity to sell something.”

While it’s important for retailers to be tuned into social media when it comes to customer service, Sardella insists that old methods continue to have value. “It’s not a one-size-fits-all approach,” he says. “Consumers expect companies to understand their individual wants and needs. If that’s responding to a complaint via Twitter, YouTube or the old-fashioned phone call, businesses need to have the right tools ready to listen, understand and respond.”