In 1990, the Tarp Study quantified many of the things we know about customer service and the impact on consumer behavior. They found, on average across all industries 50% of consumers & 75-90% of businesses complain to a “front line” While this seems high, it means a significant percentage of your clients, 25-50% , simply walk away unsatisfied.

Compounding the problem, few of these complaints were escalated to someone who could actually resolve the issue. Companies began investing in sophisticated automated help desks  which were supposed to provide direct access to empowered customer service departments to handle these consumer complaints. However anyone who has been caught in the voice mail hell loop or connected to a customer service agent in India knows this system is not working.

In the past, frustrated clients  told a few friends, and walked away.  Which, given the amount of revenue it takes to get a new client, this is extremely costly to any company.  But now, So after years of feeling powerless, consumers are striking back, posting comments on your website and in blogs entitled “Why I hate (insert brand name here)”

When I suggest to clients they open up their websites to consumer comments I hear the same concerns again and again.  “What if they say something negative? We don’t want that on our website! ” Would you rather they post the comment on another website?  Consumers have power and they will use it.  If you don’t give them the forum to reply, they will simply go elsewhere.

While many companies are ignoring this rise in the activity level of their clients, the smart ones are jumping into the game, monitoring consumer comments, replying, and even creating forums where clients can air their issues, ask questions and make improvements for suggestions.   Even if they open themselves up to some uncomfortable dialogue today, if they respond, take the feedback to heart, to improve their process they will be a stronger company, with a stronger brand in the long run.