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Social Media Users Expect Rapid Response To Complaints

One-fourth of poll respondents expect answers within an hour when using Facebook, Twitter to communicate with companies, finds British study.

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Consumers have higher expectations for customer service on social media than other, more traditional channels, a new report finds.

In fact, one-fourth of respondents who complain via Facebook or Twitter expect a reply within 60 minutes -- and 6% expect a response within 10 minutes, according to the study by Lightspeed Research and the Internet Advertising Bureau UK. Yet if consumers notify a company of a problem using its Web site, 50% are happy to wait up to a day for a reply and 27% are content to wait for up to three days, the report said.

According to the study of 1,000 British online consumers, 44% make product or brand complaints via the company's Web site, while 36% pick up the phone. More than one-fifth still rely on mail, the poll determined, a percentage far exceeding those that turn to social networking. After all, although they are the most demanding group in terms of response time, only 8% of users complained via Facebook or a forum, only 2% tweeted about their concern, and a mere 1% visited another social media outlet to criticize, Lightspeed and IABUK said.

"With social media now becoming a mainstay in people's lives, it is important for companies to understand the motivations and expectations of their customers. While only a small proportion of people currently use social media channels to complain, the impact can be greater with more people witnessing the exchange," said Ralph Risk, Lightspeed's research marketing director EMEA. "While this provides companies with a potential risk it also gives them a huge opportunity to highlight their excellent service, and the brands that embrace this successfully are likely to reap the rewards."

Not surprisingly, younger consumers were slightly more likely to use social media and less likely to mail a letter of complaint, the report found. Fifteen percent of users aged 18-34 turned to Facebook, 12% posted their comments on a forum, and 3% went to Twitter, the study said. In this age group, 44% wrote their complaints on a Web site and 30% called the company with their comments, according to the report.

Customers are not only looking for a speedy response from their brands' social media presences. It is most important for a brand or company to have a professional air, according to 37% of respondents; having a friendly online personality was important to 33% of those polled. Being creative, respectful, and innovative also were important characteristics of a successful social media brand, the report said. The five least important qualities were being adventurous, mysterious, brave, chatty, and boring, according to Lightspeed and IABUK.

Consumers increasingly value social media, a 2010 Yankee Group study found. In fact, 70% of customers want to communicate via social media, even though in July less than one-third of companies had the strategies, policies, and processes in place to meet this demand, the report said.

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