Social media changes customer expectations

Thu 18th February 2016

Companies need to be prepared for ever more proactive customers armed with more public ways to voice dissatisfaction.

Research at an Equiniti-sponsored financial services conference has found that, in five years’ time, the number of complaints via social media will have almost tripled – from 10 to 28 per cent, with survey respondents believing that social media will rise dramatically in importance from mainstream methods of complaining, such as telephone and email.

Equiniti’s research found that social media is an emerging complaint channel growing in importance within the industry, currently representing around 10 per cent of complaints. Given this importance is it perhaps concerning that 42 per cent of respondents believed they would be able to handle consumer complaints more efficiently if the FCA relaxed its rules relating to social media, which could help them more effectively engage with their customers.

Today the most common complaint channels are post, email and telephone, representing 25 per cent, 29 per cent and 46 per cent of customer complaints respectively. Complaints in person represent only 14 per cent of complaints.

However, in five years’ time the number of complaints coming through social media are expected to triple - from 10 to 28 per cent. Telephone and email (with both channels representing 37 per cent of complaints) will have decreased in importance, however they are expected to remain the biggest complaints channels relative to social media. The number of complaints by post is expected to fall from 25 per cent to 18 per cent and in person from 14 per cent to 12 per cent.

Conference attendees felt that the broadening of avenues for people to express dissatisfaction, which could include new forms of social media, is expected to have the greatest impact on complaint volumes (44 per cent of respondents), followed by an increased propensity for people to claim (40 per cent) and an increase in regulation (16 per cent).

Adam Green, Chief Risk Officer for Equiniti, said: "The financial services industry needs to be prepared for an increase in the speed of customer complaints, changes in the way customers complain and for complaints to become more visible through the use of social media.

“The immediacy of social media will continue to change the dynamics of complaint handling. It presents exciting opportunities for companies to publically stand out in the way they engage with their customers and address customer questions and concerns. Companies who are slow to respond to these changes risk potentially weakening their brand and losing customers to more ‘in touch’ rivals.

“Changing attitudes and increased use of technology means the financial services industry needs to continue to rise to the challenge of greater complaints transparency. Demonstrating understanding and empathy with customers, backed up by robust systems, will become a true differentiator for agile companies."