Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
October 3, 2008 3:20 PM

When Customers Attack, They're Not Doing It Online

Only 7% of customers who had a problem while conducting an online transaction shared their experience on a Blog or online social network.

Admit it, you thought it would be higher.

According to a study conducted by Harris Interactive for Tealeaf Technology in August 200 called, 2008 Online Transactions, it turns out that people complain a lot more in person (74%) or while on the phone with family and friends (50%) compared to leaving a rating or review on a Website (16%), an online message board (8%) or a Blog or online social network (7% - which also happens to be the lowest ranked).

This falls in line with a stat that Brett Hurt from Bazaarvoice shared with Six Pixels of Separation a ways back: out of the over ten billion peer reviews that Bazaarvoice has served, the average rating is 4.5/5.

All in all, it's still a little surprising how low these numbers seem. One of the bigger chants for Social Media revolves around a brands ability to listen to the conversation (and, how everybody is in on the conversation). While it's never good if 7% of your consumer base is complaining on Blogs and in online social networks, it's still not a huge percentage. Granted, the long tail of content is not great for a brand either. If someone complains in person, that complaint might get forwarded around via word of mouth, but has little impact when compared to a serious high ranking in the search results of your favourite search engines (as is the case when someone Blogs about it).

Putting it in writing and online gives the complaint a permanent digital legacy (one that has an ongoing conversation around it).

So, while the percentage may be significantly lower than telling someone in person, the effects of the online complaint probably have a much more dire long-term and overall negative brand effect.

People complain when they feel like their issue has not been resolved or when they are not being understood by the brand. Enabling and empowering them to review and rate products and services provides a more transparent platform for people to be heard... and they like it. On the other hand, it provides an amazing feedback process for the brand. Nothing will whip a brand into shape faster than negative feedback (hopefully).

The challenge is that this all so very new and the percentage of use from above demonstrates that. It doesn't mean it's not serious. It doesn't mean to ignore it. It just means that it's a new channel and overall usage will likely increase as the months and years roll on.

Now it's your turn: do you take your sour grapes online?

You can read the full news item about the 2008 Online Transaction survey via eMarketer here: Web Shoppers Gripe the Old-Fashioned Way.

By Mitch Joel