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Complaint handling: shorter response times expected on social media

Consumers are increasingly harnessing the power of social media and using this new channel to communicate with brands. Communicating complaints is no exception to this trend and voicing dissatisfaction seems to shift from traditional channels (phone, email, face-to-face) to social media channels.
Few studies exist on those online complaining behaviors and in particular on consumers’ expectations as far as reaction time on channels like twitter and facebook are concerned.
A new study, yet to be released, by Dr. Doga Istanbulluoglu (University of Birmingham, UK) sheds light on those behaviors.
The author used data collected from consumers who complained on Facebook or Twitter and investigated the effect of response times on consumer satisfaction.
Interestingly the author makes a distinction between the first message received after the complaint was voiced, and the “conclusive message”

Not surprisingly the findings show that consumers expect shorter response time on Facebook and Twitter compared to traditional channels used for raising complaints (offline, email, phone). More specifically results show that firms are expected to respond to complaints via social media within 3–6 h on average. Once the results are broken down by social media, it’s even more striking. Response time expectations on twitter are as low as 1 to 3 hours, whereas 3 to 6 hours seem to be acceptable on Facebook.


Managers in charge of complaint handling should understand that answers need to be tailored not only to the complaint itself, but also to the channel through which the customer complaint was sent. Understanding the level of expectations regarding response time for instance should enable to adapt processes.
Agents in charge of complaint handling should be trained to respond to these peculiarities. The reality of complaint handling is far from perfection (remember the statistics we compiled a while ago) although the reward for better complaint handling extends far beyond mere customer satisfaction.

Image : shutterstock

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Pierre-Nicolas est Docteur en Marketing et dirige l'agence d'études de marché IntoTheMinds. Ses domaines de prédilection sont le BigData l'e-commerce, le commerce de proximité, l'HoReCa et la logistique. Il est également chercheur en marketing à l'Université Libre de Bruxelles et sert de coach et formateur à plusieurs organisations et institutions publiques. Il peut être contacté par email, Linkedin ou par téléphone (+32 486 42 79 42)

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