Customers 'just need to be listened to'

MICHAEL FOREMAN
Last updated 14:28 21/07/2014

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Businesses need to adapt how they deal with customer complaints in the age of social media, according to new research.

A survey by Auckland-based public relations company Impact PR looking at use of social media in business communications, found 29 per cent of New Zealanders were unhappy with the way companies were dealing with complaints.

The survey of more than 1000 respondents found opinions on customer service differed according to gender and location.

Men were most likely to be dissatisfied, with 35 per cent saying they were not happy with the way companies responded to customer service complaints. Only 23 per cent of women were dissatisfied, while 77 per cent said they were happy with the way their complaints had been dealt with.

On a regional basis, Cantabrians seemed to have the lowest tolerance for poor business service with 36 per cent saying companies needed to do more to address their complaints satisfactorily.

Wellingtonians came a close second, with 34 per cent saying they were dissatisfied with the responses they received.

Those in Waikato and Otago were the most likely to be satisfied, with only 22 per cent and 24 per cent respectively registering dissatisfaction with company responses tocomplaints.

The research also highlighted a number of demographic differences in the way customers prefer to voice their complaints.

While the survey found that a sixth of those aged 18 to 24 prefer to use a company's Facebook or Twitter account to complain, the likelihood of using social media to communicate with a company declined with age.

Just over half of those aged 55 or more preferred to speak to someone on the phone about their product or service issues.

For consumers aged 18 to 34, the figure was as low as 30 per cent, with this group preferring electronic communication.

Writing an email or letter was the most common method of outlining complaints for nearly half of respondents, while only 4 per cent said they would prefer to complain in person.

When service fell short of expectations more than a third wanted a replacement product or service, while nearly a fifth wanted a full refund.

About one in six said they wanted an apology or someone to listen to their grievance and more than one in 10 said it was important they were given an explanation of what went wrong.

A similar number said they required additional compensation over and above a refund.

Impact PR managing director Fleur Revell said more companies were seeking help with social media crisis issues that had escalated, particularly on Facebook.

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Revell said issues could often be avoided if the consumer felt the business had taken them seriously.

"Often consumers just want to feel listened to," Revell said. 

- Stuff

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