It's not them. It's you.

About 80 percent of companies think they’re crushing it at customer service, but only 8 percent of paying customers agree. The disconnect was reported in a recent Sprinklr study, and truthfully, the results are not that surprising. Disgruntled customers are generally the most vocal. I believe it was Tolstoy who said “Happy customers are all alike, unhappy customers will write the most unique and profane things on Facebook.” 

However, some companies are genuinely shirking their duties on social media. The survey shows that 20 percent are not responding at all to customer complaints on social media. Perhaps they don’t have bandwidth to handle the comments, or they don’t realize their lack of investment in social media can do serious damage to their reputation and bottom line. (We’re not sure how they couldn’t know, but hey, not everyone’s caught up to 2007 yet.) 

Social media has blown the traditional customer service protocol wide open. Though companies may still push people to customer service hotlines or emails, there’s now Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and countless other outlets for customers to share their voices. 

So why is responding to customer complaints on social so critical? 

1. Customers are using your social page to investigate your product. Social platforms have become a research tool for informed customers. They will go to your platform to see what’s being said about your brand, and you could be losing potential customers without even realizing it. 

2. Dissatisfied customers are only going to grow more dissatisfied. Sprinklr's report states that 38 percent of customers will feel more negativity toward a brand that doesn’t meet their standards for a timely response, and 6 out of 10 will continue to take action to share their dissatisfaction. 

3. Unhappy customers create a domino effect. Irritated customers will cause others to come out of the woodwork, resulting in a thread full of complaints. This bleeds over into potential customers, who see the complaints and express concern about the product or service. With no interjection from the brand, things can quickly spin out of control. A response can set things right or minimize the damage. 

4. You have to meet your customers where they are. It might be irritating to devote time to social media when you have established channels for assisting customers with refunds or official complaints. but this is where a significant amount of customers are. If your company has no plan for dealing with them, you’re doing yourself a disservice as well. 

5. You could lose revenue. If you don’t answer a customer’s query in a timely manner, that customer can and will take his or her money elsewhere. Some might think of social media as a passive forum, but customers take an active interest in what’s being said, and how you react. 

6. It’s your reputation. You should give a damn. Or a dang, if you prefer. Transparent, helpful responses on public forums matter to current and potential customers. There is no “easy fix” to providing great customer service on social media, but there is an easy start. You just have to listen. Respond to the customer complaints you see, and research them to find the best answer. Then, close the loop publicly so others can see you provided assistance. 

The amount of time spent and the number of staff devoted to this task will depend on the volume of customer complaints and the nature of your business. The most important thing is to start. You can only continue to improve the level of service as you go forward. 

What department should be devoted to customer service on social media? 

This can be a thorny issue. Often, marketing wants to control the messaging on social media. This makes sense from a branding perspective, but it can be counterintuitive to have marketing staff replying to all the comments on social, because they’re not necessarily trained in the customer service method. 

My suggestion is a hybrid. Have customer service team members monitor and respond in collaboration with a designated marketing lead. The marketing lead can handle training the customer service staff and do quality control to ensure that the brand voice is consistent. 

Missing the mark on social media as a brand can have lasting repercussions. What do you think brands should be doing to ensure great customer service on social media platforms?

This story originally appeared on PR Daily