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Five Complainer-Customer Personas and the Role of Social Media [Plus an Infographic]

by Susan Marshall  |  
March 20, 2013
  |  13,913 views

For every complaint expressed, more than 25 go unregistered, according to some studies; rather than complain, the vast majority of those dissatisfied customers simply take their business elsewhere. And the millions, or billions, of lost revenue are rarely recovered.

More and more consumers are now using social media to interact with brands; yet, most customer complaints, questions, and comments remain unanswered by those brands.

Social media is an empowering channel for consumers and gives many of them a voice, because they wouldn't otherwise have the time, resources, or energy to actively log complaints through traditional channels.

Accordingly, social media now plays a unique and increasingly critical role in protecting both brand equity and customer loyalty.

Five Complainer Personas


The customer complaint ecosystem comprises distinct complainer personas. According to a recent article by the University of Florida, brands confront five types of complainers.

To understand how social comes into play, let's look at each complainer type and how to respond to it via social. (Also see the infographic at the end of this article.)

1. The Meek Customer generally will not complain.


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Susan Marshall is senior director of social media products at ExactTarget, a global provider of cross-channel digital marketing software-as-a-service solutions.

LinkedIn: Susan Marshall

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  • by Amy Wed Mar 20, 2013 via web

    Thank you! I needed this be able to help our sub-companies understand what to do with negative posts. Thank you Thank you!

  • by Michael Lowenstein Wed Mar 20, 2013 via web

    I take some issue with the statistics presented. Multiple relationship research studies on this topic repeatedly show that most b2c customers will not complain over a negative experience, and that a significant percentage of b2b customers also will not complain: http://www.customerthink.com/blog/customer_complaints_learn_the_real_value_... As a result, it's incumbent on all companies to proactively generate complaints so that they can act on a full, and prioritized, inventory of key experience and relationship issues.

  • by D. Anthony Miles Wed Mar 20, 2013 via mobile

    This is a very interesting article. I'm doing an article on psychopath customers. I find similar behavioral traits. After spending 13 years in retail this is only a few types that you have to deal with.

    The customer isn't always right. Customers sometimes bring their psychotic behavior to social media and traditional retail establishments. It's really bad in retail. Some customers think just because they are speeding their money in your business they get a license to act like a jerk.

    We live in dangerous times in this day of reputation management and viral marketing. Its dangerous because bad customers can use social media to lie and tell mistruths about a business and hurt their sales. This is practically social media terrorism.

    Great article

  • by N.M. Yap Thu Mar 21, 2013 via web

    I find this a very well written article, structured and clear, informational as well as clear to-do's / not-to-do's

  • by Jamie Mon Mar 25, 2013 via web

    Great breakdown. I've worked in the foodservice industry before and the same strategies are very helpful! Having been on all sides of it, I cannot stand seeing opportunist customers on Facebook pages and Twitter feeds because I get flashbacks of horrid customers trying to get free things out of us for the littlest (and exaggerated) things.

    I am definitely one of the meek customers and only complain when things are completely messed up (not just a simple mistake anyone could make) and ruin my experience (which takes a lot), or if I know it will effect a customer besides myself and want to warn them. And if customer service is apologetic and honest, like this guide advises, I decline anything free they offer me and give good reviews. It works!

  • by Jodi Beuder Wed Apr 10, 2013 via web

    Great article and infographic. Customer Service Departments MUST focus on the comments and other activity taking place in the company's social media outlets. The message here about how to react to each type of social media customer is terrific. What is surprising is WHO is using Social Media to communicate their preferences, their comments and complaints about brands, companies, products, etc. My colleague wrote about social networking is paramount to Customer Service improvement: http://www.impactlearning.com/how-social-networking-can-improve-customer-se....

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