Why are big companies slow to handle customer complaints on social media? How to fix it?

89 percent of consumers began doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. Doesn’t that number blow your mind? This is a big problem which companies need to fix. However, despite the risks posed by ignoring complaints, the RightNow survey shows that four out of five consumer complaints about a poor customer experience are ignored.

Almost sounds illogical and questionable, however when you step inside a large organization you begin to get a little clarity in terms of the reasons why companies face this challenge.

Why are companies not able to effectively handle customer complaints?

Here’s a question for you, “Which team handles Customer Complaints?

Customer Service, you got that right didn’t you.

Ok here’s one more question, (bear with me please), Which team in an organization typically initiates Social Media initiatives?

Marketing, Corporate Communication, PR all correct answers!

I’m sure you’re able to see the disconnect as illustrated below here.

Silos within organizations - Customer Service and Corporate Communication

Unfortunately for most organizations their Customer Service teams and  their Corporate Communication / PR teams are not in sync. Typically within an organization Marketing interacts with PR, however, not with the Customer Service team. The customer service team is typically sitting in a call centre handling customer service calls. Even if they do interact it’s not necessarily smooth.


The solution seems obvious, connect the two, make the teams work with each other.

However, this is a big challenge for most organizations, as it means that they need to do a large internal change not just in process and systems but also in culture in order for teams which traditionally might have not interacted in the past to work together.

Customer Services and PR / Corporate Communications are just some of the teams which need to be connected. It’s definitely doable but also requires intervention at the C-suite level.

I’m sure you’re wondering – Can’t the PR/Marketing teams at least apologize to the customer to possibly placate them and then possibly direct the conversation to the appropriate customer service personnel?

After all,  the advantage to focusing on handling customer complaints is huge. 86 percent customers will pay more for a better customer experience. (Source: RightNow survey) In the instances when an organization responded to a customer’s negative comment:

-46 percent of consumers were pleased.

- 22 percent posted a positive comment about the organization.

Hmm think about it, how would you make this work?

Option 1: Step 1. would be to apologize and Step 2. might be to direct the customer to the appropriate customer service channel.

This is probably by far the simplest and easiest solution. However, it’s definitely not a great long term solution. The reality is that more and more customers are using social channels and you need to be there servicing them. On the other hand compared to Option 1, Option 2 below can be scary.

Option 2:Have dedicated customer service representatives handle complaints on social media accounts. Now this is not as simple as it sounds cause big organizations can have on average 170+ accounts on social channels(See figure below: Source: Altimeter Group). This option would require quite a bit of system and process intervention.


The integration challenge can be huge, and the tools available currently are not really up to the mark. The Altimeter report highlights quite a few of these challenges.

Additionally, there are many a slip between the cup and the lip, as a new kind of customer service representatives are needed. That brings us on to the next challenge –

New Skillsets

A bunch of new skillsets are needed to make this happen.

Social Media Channels are many to many and multi levelYou need people who are comfortable with multi-channel, two way communications. Moreover consumers expect you to respond in near real time.

Traditional corporate communication and PR teams are just not trained in this.


Additionally, they need new competencies, understanding on how Word of Mouth communication spreads, reputation monitoring, community and influencer management New competencies needed by communication professionals to manage new social media channels


New kind of Social Customer Service Reps, Training, Process change and integration is needed and while all that is happening possibly move the customer conversation to your private support channel. Which brings me to one of the last and probably the biggest challenge.

Culture & the C-Suite – You need all hands on the deck.

The C-suite needs to drive the organizational and cultural changes needed. This involves multiple things, connected internal teams, leveraging partners and leveraging brand advocates to support your customers, you obviously can’t do this without intelligent software and without new integrated systems and processes.

Solving Big Company Customer Service Challenges

Consumers have more power than ever today, customer satisfaction is going to be the deciding factor which will shape the future of your organization. Lest you forget 86 percent customers will pay more for a better customer experience. (Source: RightNow survey). However, you can’t do this alone, you need your teams to work together, with partners and most importantly involve other key customers, i.e. brand advocates in helping you handle customer complaints.

Your turn: What’s worked for your organization? What idea above resonated the most with you? Please do drop a line in the comments below.

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