In a world of Yelps and snarky corporate Twitter accounts, it's easier than ever to interact with companies. But as far as getting companies to respond — well, occasionally it feels like you're talking to a brick wall. If that sounds familiar, you're not alone.
A recent study of more than 1,000 U.S. adults found that 85 percent of respondents said they believe organizations value their feedback, but paradoxically only 40 percent believed their feedback would have any impact. Two-thirds said the organization had either ignored their feedback or acknowledged it but took no action as a result.
That said, there are things you can do to increase the chances you'll be in that one-third of people who spoke up and spurred action.
About a third of respondents said their preferred feedback method was email. While email was the most popular platform, it may be setting people up for a mismatch in expectations, especially within the younger millennial crowd. Respondents overwhelmingly said they wanted a company to respond within a day — 80 percent of all respondents wanted an answer within 24 hours. However, those aged 18-24 said they expect an email response within an hour. Email just tends not to have that kind of speed.
Respondents did, however, find a faster response time from companies when they took to social media, and about a quarter of respondents made that their feedback venue of choice. After all, social media is very public and it has the added benefit that you can't be stuck on hold. But not all social platforms are created equal for leaving feedback and getting an answer.
More than half of people turning to social media log onto Facebook to give feedback on corporate pages, including complaints, giving praise, reporting a problem, or offering a suggestion. But across platforms included in the study —Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter — people who gave feedback on Facebook faced the longest response wait times and the lowest response rates. Of respondents using that site, 72 percent expected a response within 24 hours, and 68 percent got it. For people and companies using Facebook to give and act on feedback, the study showed that feedback was twice as likely to go unanswered on the platform.
By contrast, the other three platforms all exceeded respondents' expectations for how quickly they wanted responses.
For example, on Instagram (which is owned by Facebook), 60 percent of users wanted a response from brands within 24 hours, and 78 percent of people reported that organizations got back with them within that window. Across all the social media platforms in the study, organizations responded the most quickly on Instagram — organizations are 25 percent more likely to respond within minutes than on the next-quickest platform, Twitter.
On Twitter, 64 percent of users expected a response within 24 hours and 73 percent said brands got back to them in that time. And among users giving feedback through LinkedIn (which is owned by Microsoft), 57 percent said they expected a response within 24 hours, and 89 percent got it. It is important to note, however, that volume may play a large role in response times as companies got only one-tenth the amount of feedback on LinkedIn that they got on Facebook.
As much as the venue matters, so does the way feedback is presented. Brands are more likely to respond if feedback is clearly actionable. For complaining or reporting a problem, this means explaining the issue clearly and concisely. If you have a question or are requesting a specific action, make sure it doesn't get lost in the rest of your post. If something —good or bad — happened on a specific visit, make sure you include particulars. The clearer your ask, the easier it is for organizations to take action on your feedback.
It's always in a company's best interest to respond to feedback. Listening when a customer speaks up is an incredible way to get feedback and improve service, and can be a boon or bust for companies — something the best companies know. At the end of the day, companies and customer service departments are made up of people, who might have had a bad day or who could be stressed or distracted or hungry. While it's not your responsibility to make sure they do their job, you can help make sure your message is clear.
The industry you're talking about will make a difference, too. Our research showed that different sectors had vastly different response rates. Within that 24-hour timeframe, for example, people noted that government agencies and services responded within 24 hours only 36 percent of time. People reported somewhat better response timelines with retailers, noting that they responded within a day 59 percent of the time.
Airlines, restaurants and financial services providers all had a 24-hour response rate about two-thirds of the time. Surprisingly, phone providers ranked highest, with people reporting that they heard back from phone providers within 24 hours 76 percent of the time.
The gap between industry response times and what customers expect is worth noting: although only 52 percent of respondents expected government services to respond within the 24-hour timeframe, that category was still the one with the largest gap between what customers expected and what they got. The smallest? Airlines, with 73 percent of people expecting quick responses versus the 67 percent who actually got one. Considering these stats is useful for being realistic about a company's turnaround time. Again, it isn't your responsibility to make corporations or brands do their jobs, but managing expectations can be beneficial to your own emotional health.
—By Mike Maughan, head of global insights at Qualtrics, a survey technology company used by many corporations to gain insights on their customers.
Qualtrics was recently acquired by SAP for $8 billion. Qualtrics provided the results of its recent consumer feedback survey exclusively to CNBC.