• June 11, 2012

Maritz Research Finds Online Consumers Want Companies to Listen and Respond

With an ever-growing number of publicly accessible online communication choices available to consumers, a recent Maritz Research Consumer Preferences study shows consumers overwhelmingly want their voices to be heard by companies via the Web. They expect companies to be listening, and the study also reveals that 85 percent of consumers are very happy when businesses respond to their public comments in online forums and social media venues. That same sentiment is amplified among younger consumers.

Consumers were asked about their use of direct feedback methods, such as sending email, placing telephone calls, and writing letters, and online public methods, such as using Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn. Customers who received responses from their public comments were overwhelmingly positive about the fact that the company responded, regardless of how well the company actually handled the issue.

With 27 percent "delighted" with responses to their public feedback, compared to only 6 percent for responses to their direct feedback, they were, in fact, more likely to be happy about companies responding to public comments than direct feedback. Only 2 percent of respondents indicated they were "unhappy" with the response they received to public comments, demonstrating the acceptance of Web-based public feedback methods.

The study also found that preferred consumer contact methods are closely related to age. While all age groups still prefer direct feedback methods, young adult consumers increasingly choose online public feedback over direct, with 33 percent of the youngest consumer age group (18 to 24-year-olds) preferring public feedback methods and 28 percent of those specifically favoring Facebook. The younger the consumers, the more likely they are to prefer public over direct feedback methods.

"We know that companies increasingly need and want to understand the role of online public feedback methods," said Jim Stone, executive vice president of innovation and marketing science at Maritz Research, in a statement. "We expect we will continue to see the gap close between direct and public feedback method preferences as today's youth become adult consumers. They will increasingly expect to use online public forums and social media to give feedback to companies about products, services, and experiences. And they will expect those companies to be listening to and responding to their feedback."

The Maritz Research study also took a close look at consumer awareness and favorability toward various uses of online information by companies While most consumers are unaware of the ways in which data is used, when they do understand those uses, the sentiment is generally favorable.

  • Eighty-four percent of consumers favored using online information to help a dissatisfied customer.
  • Seventy-five percent favored using online information to garner understanding of what people think of a company's products.
  • Seventy percent favored using it to understand a competitor's products as well as leveraging Web statistics to improve a company's online presence.
  • Sixty-eight percent favor the information being used to understand what a specific person thinks of a company's products.
  • Sixty percent are in favor of the information being used to understand what a specific person thinks of a competitor's products.

"The study showed that responding to the voice of the customer requires a business to stop and listen to what is being said, and then respond accordingly. Online public methods of feedback offer up a new layer of complexity as responses are able to be viewed by the Internet audience at large – as is the lack of response," Stone said.

This recent study confirms similar results from a Maritz Research Twitter poll released last fall. That study found that frequent Twitter users who have used the tool to complain about their customer experience overwhelmingly want those companies to be listening to their comments.

Stone added, "Consumers are intelligent and are very aware that many companies are listening. The single most important message from both polls is that consumers actually want companies to pay attention to what they are saying in online public forums and on social media sites, and they are thrilled when they get a response."

The Consumer Preferences study, which was conducted April 18-22, reviewed responses from an online panel of 1,400 people. The questionnaire focused on three key areas: awareness, uses and preference of consumer feedback mechanisms; awareness and opinions of other uses of Web analytics; and demographics.

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