According to the recent Better Connected survey of UK council websites, council and public bodies face damage to their reputations if they fail to respond to complaints quickly. With the growth of social media and online complaints, councils are having to re-evaluate the time it takes from ten days of receipt of the complaint to within a couple of hours.
John Fox, reviewer for the public sector IT management body Socitm, stated
"The general expectation is that an email will be replied to within a shorter timeframe, and not many customers would regard a ten day timeframe as short. These response times - often contained in customer 'charters' - must now be revisited to ensure customer interactions via social media are both recognised and suitably resourced internally."
The result could be that citizens shift their complaints to more expensive non-digital channels. "At a time when councils should be encouraging customers to use cheaper digital channels to access services as often as possible, delays in responding to emails may well lead to further unnecessary contact from the customer, either in the form of a follow-up email or a telephone call to enquire whether the original contact was received."
"A failed attempt by a customer to engage the council using Twitter or Facebook, for example, may be followed up with a further, more exasperated attempt. This has potential to damage a council's reputation as 'retweets' of negative comments may occur, or worse still others may join the fray. One negative comment about the council could quickly go viral if an individual has a wide circle of friends or followers."
The publication of a different survey by Omnibus commissioned by customer service software firm KANA found that the use of digital devices and social networks has hugely shortened British consumers' tolerance of waiting times from several days to minutes.
The KANA survey found channels now used for complaints include email on smartphones, laptops and PCs; Twitter; texts; and Facebook.
The more surprising results were that the over 65s check their devices more frequently than the 45-65 year old group. Though the amount of people in the second group is much greater than the first.
Figures which indicate that in the future the expectations of immediate response will become even more prevalent.