Consumers are becoming increasingly proactive in the way they deal with companies following a poor customer experience, according to the 'Customer Experience Impact Survey' published by RightNow Technologies.
The fourth annual study found that 44% of consumers have returned goods as a countermeasure to poor experiences, a 5% increase over the previous year. But apart from consumers returning products to address poor experiences, 72% of UK consumers have reacted to their ill treatment by boycotting the organisation at fault.
While coping with the costs of product returns, refunds and customer churn, organisations also need to consider the viral impact of poor consumer experiences. While 95% of consumers use word-of-mouth to tell others about their treatment, consumers also use the social web to communicate their displeasure. The study found that 20% of consumers have now posted a negative review on a company's web site, while many others have posted their experiences and views on social networks such as Facebook, or have posted blog entries about their experiences.
RightNow warns that companies that ignore the social web do so at their peril. Many examples of consumer empowerment through the social web have been well documented, and pressure groups dedicated to changing company policies have sprung up all over Facebook (and many have been successful in accomplishing their goals). Even individual consumer campaigns conducted via social networking sites have allegedly wiped significant value from company share prices.
However, the study also found that web sites such as Twitter and Facebook can be a useful channel for repairing customer service problems. For example, 59% of consumers said that, if they post complaints on a social networking site, they would like the company to contact them with a response. Social sites can also help to build trust and advocacy among consumers, as 53% of UK adults said they follow brands on Twitter to get tips or advice, and 39% do so purely because they love the brand and want to be part of its community.
Phone-based customer care is still the preferred interaction channel, however, with 71% of consumers still opting to speak directly with a customer service agent. If handled correctly there is an opportunity to drive additional revenue while speaking with customers on the phone. Some 43% said they had interacted with an organisation's customer service department and then purchased an item related to other products they own. A further 31% had purchased an item because they trusted that the service agent was being honest about the offer.
Even though today's consumers are empowered by an wide range of social media options, in a down economy some 87% of consumers said they would still pay more for a better customer experience (up from 81% one year before). The provision of exceptional customer service is also still one of the top three reasons that consumers will recommend a company to someone else.