The response by a company to a customer's complaint on the micro-blogging site Twitter is likely to trigger many more such complaints, says a study co-authored by an Indian-origin researcher.
The team found that while addressing complaints on social media does improve customer relationship with the company, but it also increases customers' expectations to receive help, and makes customers more likely to speak up in the future.
That is, responding to complaints will encourage even more complaints.
"Social media is a double edge sword. Companies need to watch out and weigh the plus side against the down side for marketing and service interventions," said researcher Sunder Kekre from Carnegie Mellon University.
Along with Liye Ma of University of Maryland and Baohong Sun of Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business, Kekre examined the history of compliments and complaints by several hundred consumers of a major telecommunications services provider made on Twitter and the company's responses.
"People complain on Twitter not just to vent their frustration. They do that also in the hope of getting the company's attention. Once they know the company is paying attention, they are more ready to complain the next time around," explained Ma.
Despite this side effect, addressing complaints is still worthwhile.
The improved customer relationship from such effort outweighs the downside of encouraging more complaints, the researchers observed.
The study was published in the Articles in Advance section of Marketing Science, a journal of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences (INFORMS).