Retailers Can Win Back Unhappy Customers Through Social Media

According to a new report by RightNow and conducted by Harris Interactive, retailers are using social media channels to bring back dissatisfied customers. The research demonstrates that by listening and proactively responding to complaints on the social web, retailers have an opportunity to turn disgruntled customers into brand advocates. 

The "Retail Consumer Report" survey, conducted in January 2011 among consumers who shopped online during the most recent holiday season, explores modern-​day consumers’ expectations and how retailers are using social media to recapture unhappy customers, as well as influence their buying decisions.


The Retail Consumer Report found that 68% of consumers who posted a negative review on a social networking or ratings/​reviews site after a poor holiday shopping experience got a response from the retailer. Of those, 18% turned around and became loyal customers and bought more.

Retailers are using social media not only to recapture dissatisfied customers, but also turn them into brand advocates. The survey found that retailers are converting unhappy customers into brand champions by listening and proactively responding to their complaints on the social web. Among consumers who did get a response from the retailer to their negative review, the survey determined:

  • 33% followed up and reposted a positive review; and
  • 34% deleted their original negative review.

However, consumers have low expectations that retailers will monitor and respond to their negative reviews. Among the 1/​3 of consumers whose negative review did not get a response, the survey determined that 61% would be shocked if the retailer had responded to their negative comment on the social web.

When consumers have a bad experience, they will not come back. And now, more than ever, unhappy consumers are turning to the social web to share their complaints. However, retailers have an opportunity to wow consumers by listening and effectively responding to their complaints on the social web. Retailers can bring back unhappy customers and turn them into brand advocates," said Greg Gianforte, chief executive officer, RightNow. 


The Retail Consumer Report demonstrates that great experiences drive consumers’ buying decisions. Half of consumers indicated they were influenced to buy from a specific online retailer by great customer service or a previous positive experience with the retailer. After a positive shopping experience, 31% of consumers purchased more from the retailer.

Also according to the survey, consumers’ buying decisions are influenced by the brand advocacy of fellow consumers on the social web. 28% of consumers researched what customers wrote on social networking and review websites, while shopping online.


Among consumers who had a positive shopping experience with an online retailer:

  • 21% recommended the retailer to friends; and
  • 13% posted a positive online review about the retailer.

To support consumer brand advocacy, it is imperative that retailers ensure the information on their website is accurate and consistent. The survey found that 38% of consumers turned to the retailer’s website for information or support with online shopping. However, 1 of the top frustrations consumers had when shopping online was a lack of consistent information from retailers. Specifically, 22% of consumers were frustrated by information that was inconsistent between the retailer’s website and customer service agents.

[Source:  "Retail Consumer Report." RightNow/​Harris Interactive. 1 Mar. 2011. Web. 4 Mar. 2011.]