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An Omnibus poll of UK consumers for KANA Software has found that organisations may be on the verge of an explosion in the volume of public complaints against them, as young social media-savvy consumers enter the phase in their lives when they begin to experience poor service from utilities, banks, retailers and public sector organisations. The data reveals that 25 is the age at which our propensity to complain matures.

The poll found that 18-24 year olds are 60 percent more likely to use social media to issue a complaint than traditional complainant age groups, raising the prospect that UK organisations could face a surge of social media complaints if they do not take appropriate steps to improve their complaints procedures.

The poll also found that the average UK consumer sacrifices two full days – or “Moandays” as one respondent called them – per year to complaining. The average complaint against an organization soaks up a colossal 3 hours and 54 minutes of a consumer’s time, the poll found.

A principal cause of delay in complaint resolution was the sheer amount of time spent repeating details of the complaint. More than half of complainants wasted at least an hour repeating their complaint to other people in the organization as they were transferred on to other departments.

An insight into the potential impact of social media-savvy complainants on organisations came recently when a disgruntled consumer paid for a promoted Tweet to raise the profile of his complaint to British Airways about his lost baggage. The Tweet went viral and generated substantial media coverage, causing significant damage to BA’s reputation.

“Passing the buck simply isn’t going to work as consumers get more adept at social media,” said David Moody, head of product strategy for KANA Software. “It is easier than ever for customers to make truly informed choices and it is also becoming easier for consumers to shift service providers if they are disenchanted. For example, new rules come into force today that make it easier for consumers to change banks. The mantra for employees of banks and all customer-facing organisations ought to be ‘the buck stops here, or it gets spent somewhere else.'”

Separate KANA research has found that the average UK consumer now uses up to seven different channels of communication, indicating the risk that organisations face in coping with complaints.

“Complaining customers are already tech savvy and, for the first time in the history of technology, they’re ahead of most organisations that they complain to," added Moody. "Technology exists to knit all of these channels together so that customers don’t have to repeat themselves and can get a better, faster response.

“Companies are helped to better serve their customers by having the correct information at their fingertips including the context of each complaint, even across multiple communication channels. The organisations that will succeed in the future are those that are making the modest investment in this technology today.”

The poll also found that for now email is the most popular tool for complaining to an organization today (42 percent), followed closely by the phone (36 percent), and that 16 percent of all complaints across all age groups take place online – a figure that is growing. KANA predicts that social complaints will become the default procedure in most cases within five years.

“We all know the wearying feeling of repeating a complaint to several different people," explained Moody. "The risk for companies is that every prolonged service interaction heightens consumer frustration and the likelihood they will share their experience with the masses. Without a sound plan, companies are effectively rehearsing consumers for 140-character performances to a large and sympathetic online audience. Time-poor consumers have short fuses and social media is the perfect conduit for communicating their grievances.”

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