Social Customers: Don’t Make Me Angry; You Wouldn’t Like Me When I’m Angry

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Even if you’re not a comic book fan, you’re most likely familiar with the storyline of The Incredible Hulk. After being exposed to high doses of gamma radiation, mild-mannered physicist Bruce Banner is transformed into a raging beast capable of terrible destruction whenever someone or something makes him angry.

While your customers will not crush your car or come rip the door off your office if they’ve been angered, they do wield the power to wreak havoc on your brand’s reputation, at least for a while, through the use of social media. Think Canadian musician Dave Carroll’s United Breaks Guitars or the collective social ire expressed by passengers of Air Berlin recently when a flight from Stockholm to Berlin took off without their luggage.

It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

A recent study conducted by researchers at Beihang University in China shows that anger is the most powerful and viral emotion on the Internet, and that friends and followers are far more likely to share or echo the angry sentiments of fellow social media users, rather than messages containing sadness, disgust or even joy.

The report’s data was gathered from Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, which has more than 500 million users and sees 100 million messages posted each day. The survey collected 70 million tweets from 200,000 users and studied four sentiments: anger, sadness, joy and disgust. The study found that anger by far is the most viral of the four emotions, and the more two users are connected across social media; the more likely they are to reflect each other’s emotions.

A recent Technology Review article echoes these findings, comparing online virality, especially anger, to a forest fire, saying “the eventual size of a forest fire is determined by the connectivity of trees – how close they are together, for instance – but it has almost nothing to do with the size of the spark that started the fire in the first place.”

All the Rage

So what makes customers so angry that they want to take out their frustration on social media or another public venue? The 2011 National Customer Rage Study, conducted by Care Measurement & Consulting in collaboration with the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, says that brands not valuing their time (65%), or being passed around from representative to representative for a single question or complaint, are two top reasons for customer anger. What do most angry customers want when they voice their complaints? Ninety percent (90%) said they wanted to be treated with dignity. Only 40% said they were.

Spread the Word

According to the study, the top reasons angry consumers said they posted about their problem online were to ensure that others didn’t have the same experience (39%) and/or to vent and relieve their frustration (36%). Others said they wanted to get the word out quickly to family and friends and/or to make sure no one else buys from the company.

When customers became angry, 88% in the survey said they shared their story with friends and other people, and when asked about the results of their angry online posts, 68% said they got validation either in sympathy or agreement from others.

Those polled in the study each had an average of 280 unique friends/followers/contacts in their social network to spread the word to about a bad experience, while through traditional word-of-mouth, customers only told about 25 people. Using this as a guide, the study notes that the potential for social networking word-of-mouth complaint sharing is 11 times greater than traditional word-of-mouth – and that doesn’t even take into account if those seeing the original message share the experience with their contacts on social media (and so on, and so on).

Look on the Bright Side

But let’s not discount the power of positivity online, because a little good news can go a long way, as well. When someone “likes” a comment or a story, it increases the possibility of someone else liking that interaction by 32 percent, according to a study from MIT. And according to Dimensional Research’s “Customer Service and Business Results: A Survey of Customer Service from Mid-Size Companies,” 30% of those surveyed said they share good customer service experiences on social media.

It’s always good to end things on a happy note whenever possible. For tips on potentially turning even the most volatile customer into a satisfied one, read 6 Steps to Defuse (and Retain) the Upset Customer.

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Republished with author's permission from original post.

Tricia Morris
Tricia Morris is a product marketing director at 8x8 with more than 20 years of experience at technology companies including Microsoft and MicroStrategy. Her focus is on customer experience, customer service, employee experience and digital transformation. Tricia has been recognized as an ICMI Top 50 Thought Leader, among the 20 Best Customer Experience Blogs You Must Follow, and among the 20 Customer Service Influencers You Must Follow.

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