Speed is Not the Currency of Satisfaction in Customer Service

by Jay Baer on Mar 04, 2016

Many companies agree: it’s not easy to hug your haters. But doing so makes business sense.

Businesses that answer every complaint, in every channel, every time are businesses that consistently exceed customer expectations. They create advocacy gains that translate into real revenue.

You don‘t have to hug haters faster, you have to hug them across more platforms. This is especially true in the “onstage” (public and social) venues where companies often refuse to participate.

With the help of Edison Research, I asked over 2,000 individuals, who had complained to a business in the prior 12 months, whether they expected a response when they complained, and if they did expect one, how quickly they anticipated the business to reply.

Our findings form the basis of The Hatrix: the expectation and corresponding advocacy impact for onstage and offstage haters. (The Hatrix is available as a free, downloadable poster – take a moment to grab it now, and keep The Hatrix in your office to remind you of these key points).

Do haters expect a response?

Just as onstage and offstage haters differ in their use of technology, they also diverge in their expectation of a response. When customers complain in a direct, offstage manner such as telephone or email, they anticipate that businesses will reply. Specifically, when complaints are made by telephone, customers expect a response 91 percent of the time.

Email expectations are virtually identical; 89 percent of complainers who use that channel first anticipate a reply.
Our research shows that, 84 percent of phone complainers and 78 percent of email complainers actually received a response.
The expectations for response among onstage haters is far different, however.

When complaining in social media, customers expect a response just 42 percent of the time, and 40 percent receive one. When complaining on a review site like Yelp, TripAdvisor, Amazon or similar, 53 percent of those onstage haters expect businesses to reply, and 53 percent of the time a reply is received.
In discussion boards and forums, 47 percent of complainers expect a reply and their complaints are addressed 49 percent of the time.

Businesses must manage expectations better

Remarkably, the legacy, offstage channels are where companies are failing to meet the desires of today‘s customers. How much goodwill is being squandered with the 11 percent gap between expectation and reality in the email channel?

There are significant differences between offstage haters who want a reply and an answer, and onstage haters who often want an audience, and don‘t even expect a reply half the time.


How Fast Do Haters Expect a Response?

When I first designed this study with Edison Research, I anticipated a far different set of findings. I fully expected to discover that in today‘s hyper-speed world, speed of response would have the greatest impact on customer advocacy; that being fast would be the currency of satisfaction. But it‘s not entirely true, at least not yet.

Speed of response has an impact on overall customer satisfaction, and the willingness of haters to embrace your business, post-complaint. But the impact isn‘t massive. This is partially because when complaints are addressed, companies are doing a satisfactory job at answering them without delay. The problem is that many complaints are never answered.

If you want to retain customers with great customer service and customer experience, it‘s not just about being fast, it‘s about being everywhere.

Sixty-seven percent of haters who complain by telephone are satisfied with response time, and 75 percent of today‘s telephone complaints are handled by business within 24 hours.

Email doesn‘t fare as well, with 61 percent of haters satisfied with response time on that channel. This is perhaps because just 52 percent of email complaints are addressed within 24 hours.

Onstage haters are different

Onstage haters’ expectations for speedy response are quite different. Just 32 percent of social media complainers are happy with how fast businesses respond in that channel. This is despite the fact that 63 percent of social media complaints that are addressed are handled within 24 hours. That‘s not fast enough.

Today, 39 percent of social media complainers expect a reply within 60 minutes, yet the average response time from business is 4.9 hours. Closing that expectation gap is a major element of the Hug Your Haters success formula.

Haters who complained on Twitter are the most satisfied with response time. Eighty-eight percent of complainers who received a reply there are happy with the speed of that reply. This may be because many businesses in the United States and around the world have come to view Twitter as a primary customer service vehicle, and have assigned significant resources to the channel accordingly.

But according to our study, this Twitter-centric model of social media customer service may be misplaced. 71 percent of all social media complaints in the United States are logged on Facebook, with Twitter a distant second at 17 percent. Google + represents six percent of complaints, and Instagram, another five percent.

Certainly, Facebook has far more users than Twitter, which may partially explain a difference in usage. But many customers also take to Facebook to sound off in ways that may not be directly actionable or solvable. Often, Facebook complaints are structured, negative feedback more than they are cries for help. These are viewed as “complaints” by consumers, but may not be viewed as such by businesses.

This discrepancy may cause companies to misjudge the scope and scale of customer service opportunities. They seem to favor Twitter, where the overall participation may be lower, but the use of the venue as a direct customer service channel is more obvious.

Being fast is not the currency of satisfaction, but you must respond in less than 24 hours. To create customer advocacy that translates into real revenue, companies must set up a system to exceed expectations.


hyh-book-1Drawn from Hug Your Haters: How to Embrace Complaints and Keep Your Customers, about which Guy Kawasaki says: “This is a landmark book in the history of customer service.”

Written by Jay Baer, Hug Your Haters is the first customer service and customer experience book written for the modern, mobile era and is based on proprietary research and more than 70 exclusive interviews.

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is a hype-free social media and content strategist & speaker, and author of the New York Times best selling business book Youtility: Why Smart Marketing is About Help not Hype. Jay is the founder of Convinc &...