Brands must provide customers with a online voice

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on July 13, 2010

Brands must provide customers with a online voice

The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI) by the Institute of Customer Service shows that providing space for onsite reviews of products and services is five times more important to UK consumers than a company having a Twitter account and three times more important than offering a Facebook page or group.

Only 8% of UK consumers expect firms to run a Twitter account, whilst marginally more (14%) expect to be able to interact with brands through Facebook. However, 41% view an onsite facility to provide reviews of products and service as a standard element of any good corporate website. Indeed, more than half (54%) of consumers use such a facility when it is provided.

As expected, younger consumers are more inclined to demand a Facebook or Twitter facility of the brands they buy from than older groups. For example, more than a fifth (21%) of 18-24s expect companies to run a Facebook page, compared to only 13% of the 35-54 age group, and 7% of the over 55s.

These findings suggest a new direction for British businesses, which should now consider investing more resources in improving 'voice of the customer' initiatives and customer service performance.

According to Jo Causon, chief executive for the Institute of Customer Service, "Businesses must wake up to the fact that the relationship between companies and their customers has changed irrevocably. Customers now hold the power, and they expect to be able to make their voice heard by sharing their experiences with the world online."

Indeed, Causon argued, by denying customers the right to reply on an open platform, businesses not only risk irritating existing customers but they miss the opportunity to gain valuable feedback, leaving them unaware of and unable to rectify problems when they arise.

The research also found that much more work needs to be done to improve the dialogue between customers and companies when complaints are made online. While more than half (55%) of consumers expect a response to an online complaint the same day, only 29% actually received one. More worryingly, 12% reported having to wait at least a month for a response.

Causon concluded: "21st century consumers will post their concerns and experiences online, and if companies don't provide a facility to do this on their own web site, customers will turn to social networking sites to share their thoughts. If it is a complaint they have to share, their frustrations could be viewed by millions around the world, resulting in much more significant brand and relationship damage than was ever possible with simple word-of-mouth."

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