2010 Customer Complaint Index - Web Liquid


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Before search engines, there were fewer resources to help consumers qualify there purchase behavior. Nowadays, almost two-thirds of internet users research online before buying, and the search engines are not only the tool of choice, but they're influencing most people in their decisions. One common query in this process is “customer complaints.” For many brands, these searches are conducts thousands of times every month.

For marketers, the opportunity is twofold. For our own brands, this search behavior allows us to attract a qualified and attentive audience at a low cost, and demonstrate top-notch customer service. For competitive brands, it gives us a similar opportunity to showcase our own best practices and success stories.

Understand customer complaints, the search behavior that drives them, and the marketing opportunity surrounding them.

• Which brands are most commonly searched in Google for customer complaints?
• Which industries attract this type scrutiny from consumers?
• How well are advertisers capitalizing on opportunities to extend marketing reach around complaint-focused search behavior?

The Customer Complaint Index studies 35 global brands across a variety of industries, providing a granular view of absolute search query volumes related to customer complaints. In short, it connects marketers with the disgruntled digital consumer, and identifies the opportunities to make their own brands stand out in this overlooked space.


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2010 Customer Complaint Index - Web Liquid

  1. 1. This is the 2010 Customer Complaint Index by
  2. 2. The influence of complaints Before the Internet, where did we go to qualify our purchases? Consumer Reports magazine built a following by empowering readers with its valuable critical insight. Verticalized resources like Kelley Blue Book took a similar approach. In lieu of these resources, we asked our family, friends, coworkers, or anyone else with knowledge of the product or service. But unfortunately, in many cases we simply skipped this step all together, and dove into purchases without a clear understanding of what we were in for. Nowadays, we have a slew of tools at our disposal, not least of which are search engines. According to a December 2008 study by TNS, 63% of adult internet users worldwide research a product/service online before buying ("Digital World, Digital Life"). Similar research from ORC found 61% of respondents consulting online reviews, blogs and other sources of online customer feedback before purchasing a new product or service – with search engines being the preferred method of conducting the research ("Online Consumer Reviews Significantly Impact Consumer Purchasing Decisions"). Five out of six (83%) reported that this research had some level of influence on their purchase decisions.
  3. 3. Poor customer service: does it make for good marketing? Customer service can be traditionally seen as a organizational cost center. Delivering at a high level requires good people with thorough training and constant access to up-to-date resources. They spring into action after the sale, to make sure that customers are kept happy. Corporations invest countless millions of dollars to get it right, because they know how profoundly at can affect the sales cycle, and the long-term growth prospects of the company. But are we taking full advantage of the marketing opportunity tied to customer service? Consumer behavior in search engines can shed light on this. Given the sizable number of Google queries related to customer complaints, a variety of trends emerge to answer the question above. We’ll show you the brands which receive the dubious distinction of making the list, which of them should really be concerned about it, and where the marketer’s opportunities lie.
  4. 4. Contextualizing Complaint Queries If someone searches for complaints related to a brand, what does it really mean? Most likely, this search behavior traces back to one of a few root causes: • the consumer is considering a variety of brands prior to purchasing, and would like to educate him/herself on the potential pitfalls of each • the consumer has heard horror stories about the brand's customer service record, and is curious to learn more • the consumer has experienced one of these horror stories, and would like to find out where they can formally register these complaints, making them public for the world to see There are two common denominators in each of the aforementioned scenarios: • the brand's poor performance is put in the spotlight • the consumer is proactively calling on the experiences of other consumers
  5. 5. Objectives The Customer Complaint Index is our effort to understand customer complaints, specifically the search behavior that drives them, and the marketing opportunity surrounding them. We begin with three research objectives. 1) Which brands are most commonly searched in Google for customer complaints? 2) Which industries attract this type scrutiny from consumers? 3) To what extent are advertisers capitalizing on opportunities to extend marketing reach around complaint-focused search behavior?
  6. 6. What did we look for? We chose to study 35 brands across a variety of industries, including automotive, consumer packaged goods, entertainment, retail, electronics & appliances, car rental, foodservice, shipping and software. These brands were identified based on tools provided by Google which identify the top search queries related to “customer complaints,” using both singular and plural queries, i.e. "{brand} customer complaint" and "{brand} customer complaints”. Instances in which Google reported "Not enough data" were recorded with zero values. The full list of brands is available in the Appendix. The resulting data gave us a brand-by-brand view of absolute search query volumes on a monthly basis. It should be noted that in no way does this research suggest any implications at the click-through level; our focus is simply on “pre-click” query behavior as an indication on consumer intent. Advertiser competition was also reported by Google, defined as the number of worldwide advertisers bidding on a particular keyword, relative to all keywords across all of Google. Finally, the data was indexed to broad-matched search query volumes for the brand name by itself, without the aforementioned “customer complaint(s)” modifiers. This gave us a read on what proportion of a brand’s entire search activity could be traced back to a specific interest in customer complaints.
  7. 7. What did we find? In terms of absolute worldwide monthly search queries, we observed what is essentially a dead heat for the top spot, with Nissan (4,686), McDonald’s (4,663) and Hewlett-Packard (4,650) all within 0.1% of each other. Samsung trailed slightly at 4,413. The rest of the top ten: Ebay, Sony, GE, LG, Hyundai and Microsoft. When indexing these Customer Complaint Queries to the brand’s overall broad-matched search activity, a very different picture emerged, with General Motors owning the highest relative share of Customer Complaint Queries (1.48 per 1,000 queries). Maytag was a distant second (0.69), with a trio of fast food chains (Burger King, McDonald’s and KFC) rounding out the top five. In terms of Advertiser Competition, Ebay owned the top spot in terms of share of advertisers bidding on related Customer Complaint keywords. The next six brands on the list were all auto manufacturers: Hyundai, Nissan, Volkswagen, General Motors, Volkswagen, Audi. Despite the prominence of automotive brands in each of these sub-analyses, at an industry level, it was Electronics/Appliances which owned the largest share (35%) of Customer Complaint Queries. Automotive ranked second at 24%, followed by Foodservice (18%) and Retail (10%).
  8. 8. Nissan
 Which brands drive the most Complaint Queries? Samsung
 Nissan appears in the highest number of Complaint Queries, with McDonald’s Sony
 and HP very close behind. GE
 The brands with the highest volumes of Customer Complaint Queries span a Hyundai
 variety of industries. MicrosoA
 What happens when we index these against overall search activity? Disney
 Are advertisers taking advantage of the Maytag
 search marketing opportunities around this consumer behavior? General
 What types of products and services Pizza
 are most prone to the “complaint spotlight”? Ikea
 That’s what we were wondering, too. USPS
 Source: Google.com (2010) 0
 Global Monthly Complaint Query Volume
  9. 9. General
 1.48 Maytag
 0.69 Complaint queries, indexed to all search activity For every 1,000 queries on Google Burger
 0.59 about General Motors, 1.48 deal with Customer Complaints. No other brand McDonald's
 0.45 even came close to this figure. Is the recent performance General KFC
 0.44 Motors’ vehicles actually driving this behavior? Or are there extraneous Firestone
 0.41 factors at play, such as their aggressive promotions surrounding the recent “Cash for Clunkers” program? Nabisco
 0.35 With some brands, people simply talk GE
 0.33 about their horror stories because it’s in vogue… if they have an appetite for this information, chances are they Rite
 0.26 know how to search for it. Subway
 0.23 Source: Google.com (2010) 0.0
 Customer Complaint Index (Complaint Queries per Thousand Brand Queries)
  10. 10. Ebay
 59.4% Hyundai
 51.1% What about the inherent advertising opportunity? The automotive industry is capitalizing on Nissan
 50.8% advertising opportunities related to Customer Complaints, but Ebay still Volkswagen
 49.7% holds the top spot. Given its dominance within automotive General
 46.3% classified, perhaps Ebay in this chart reflects the large online footprint of Ebay VW
 44.5% Motors? If capitalizing on customer service Audi
 44.5% opportunities in search is any indication, advertisers in the automotive space are a Samsung
 44.4% relatively savvy lot. * Advertiser Competition refers to the number of KFC
 44.3% worldwide advertisers bidding on each keyword, relative to all keywords across all of Google. This measure helps advertisers understand how Maytag
 44.1% competitive ad placement is for a particular keyword. Source: Google.com (2010) 0%
 Rate of Advertiser Competition
  11. 11. Entertainment Car Rental Packaged 2.9% 1.1% Goods 0.1% What industries are the most scrutinized? Software 3.8% Among the brands studied, more than one-third of Customer Complaint Shipping Queries were directed toward 4.8% Electronics & Appliance manufacturers. When adding the Automotive and Retail Electronics/ Foodservice verticals, these three Appliances 9.9% segments represent more than three- 35.3% quarters of all Customer Complaint Queries. What does this say about consumer behavior? We all have had a bad experience in a store, and we’ve all Foodservice had a complaint or two about an 17.6% appliance or electronic gadget – but why would search engines be a more viable feedback outlet only for the Automotive latter? 24.3% Source: Google.com (2010) Share of Complaint Queries, by industry vertical
  12. 12. What have we learned? Clearly there is a certain bias to this list, in that high brand appeal correlates, to some degree, with Customer Complaint queries. If a manufacturer makes the best widget in the world, and they sell the largest number of widgets every quarter, they’re still going to have a lot of complaints. Compared to flawless widgets, the share of faulty widgets might be small, but the absolute number could still be high. And this is precisely why customer service failures can be a gold mine for marketers. If a competitor fails, the marketer has a golden opportunity to step in and save the day. If it’s their own product or service that fails, they can still leverage the situation for data capture, opening a powerful remarketing channel for when the problem is resolved. In either scenario, the media tends to be cheap, the audience is generally very focused, and for the time being, other advertisers are usually absent.

  13. 13. What have we learned? Despite the fact that Toyota is absent from this list, that may not be true for very long. Consider the recent news affecting Toyota factories and showrooms across the country – a total of eight models were found to have faulty accelerators which posed significant safety risks. On Friday, January 22, 2010, queries for "toyota recall" went through the roof, according to Google Insights for Search: With an unprecedented degree of interest in this keyword, a major reach opportunity for marketers presented itself – literally overnight. Yet apart from Toyota themselves bidding on that keyword to alert consumers about its new safety advisory, it's a ghost town on the search results pages (see next slide). Where's Honda reminding us of its impeccable safety record? Where's General Motors telling Americans, "there's more to the GM brand than our customers' complaints?"
  14. 14. What have we learned? While the Toyota recall is a powerful illustration of competitive positioning opportunities in search marketing, it is by no means unique. Products break down every day. Service failures leave consumers wanting more. These are the facts of life, and for brands to adapt, the response is twofold: 1) When negative attention (such as customer complaints) is drawn to a competitor, participation in that dialogue can deliver immense value. As Woody Allen famously said, 80% of success is simply showing up.
  15. 15. What have we learned? 2) When negative attention is instead focused on your brand, presence in that forum, and ownership of that dialogue will always pay off over ambivalence. Toyota’s handling of its most recent recall is a good illustration of this approach. What’s Next? Just for good measure, have a look at the disparaging comment above from a Twitter user. With the onset of real-time search technology, word of mouth behavior is edging closer and closer to what was once search marketers' no-fly zone. Stay tuned for more. http://www.webliquidgroup.com
  16. 16. Appendix Global Monthly Complaint Query Volume & Advertiser Competition Customer Complaint Index, Complaint Queries per Thousand Advertiser Complaint Query Complaint Query Broad Query Complaint Queries Brand Industry Competition Volume, monthly Brand Volume, monthly Volume, monthly per Thousand Acura Automotive 39.8% 966 General Motors 1,478 1,000,000 1.48 Audi Automotive 44.5% 1,283 Maytag 1,546 2,240,000 0.69 Burger King Foodservice 41.2% 1,989 Burger King 1,989 3,350,000 0.59 Disney Entertainment 25.2% 1,838 McDonald's 4,663 10,360,000 0.45 Dominos Foodservice 0.0% 482 KFC 1,469 3,350,000 0.44 Ebay Retail 59.4% 3,762 Firestone 497 1,220,000 0.41 Fedex Shipping 30.2% 1,684 Nabisco 86 246,000 0.35 Firestone Automotive 0.0% 497 GE 3,609 11,100,000 0.33 GE Electronics/Appliances 43.5% 3,609 Rite Aid 386 1,500,000 0.26 General Motors Automotive 46.3% 1,478 Subway 1,166 5,000,000 0.23 Hertz Car Rental 29.4% 696 Pizza Hut 1,416 6,120,000 0.23 HP Electronics/Appliances 38.9% 4,650 USPS 1,382 6,120,000 0.23 Hyundai Automotive 51.1% 2,536 Fedex 1,684 7,480,000 0.23 Ikea Retail 31.0% 1,393 Hertz 696 3,350,000 0.21 Infiniti Automotive 43.1% 470 Acura 966 5,000,000 0.19 John Deere Electronics/Appliances 0.0% 479 Hyundai 2,536 13,600,000 0.19 KFC Foodservice 44.3% 1,469 Infiniti 470 2,740,000 0.17 Kroger Retail 1.2% 277 Nissan 4,686 30,400,000 0.15 Lenovo Electronics/Appliances 37.9% 624 Kroger 277 1,830,000 0.15 LG Electronics/Appliances 43.8% 3,448 Dominos 482 4,090,000 0.12 Maytag Electronics/Appliances 44.1% 1,546 Lenovo 624 6,120,000 0.10 McDonald's Foodservice 42.1% 4,663 Staples 488 5,000,000 0.10 Mercedes Benz Automotive 36.2% 806 John Deere 479 6,120,000 0.08 Microsoft Software 32.9% 2,437 LG 3,448 45,500,000 0.08 Nabisco Packaged Goods 20.0% 86 HP 4,650 68,000,000 0.07 Nissan Automotive 50.8% 4,686 Microsoft 2,437 45,500,000 0.05 Pizza Hut Foodservice 30.1% 1,416 Samsung 4,413 83,100,000 0.05 Rite Aid Retail 0.0% 386 Ikea 1,393 30,400,000 0.05 Samsung Electronics/Appliances 44.4% 4,413 VW 1,283 30,400,000 0.04 Sony Electronics/Appliances 41.7% 3,643 Volkswagen 1,393 37,200,000 0.04 Staples Retail 0.0% 488 Sony 3,643 101,000,000 0.04 Subway Foodservice 16.5% 1,166 Disney 1,838 55,600,000 0.03 USPS Shipping 43.9% 1,382 Ebay 3,762 151,000,000 0.02 Volkswagen Automotive 49.7% 1,393 Audi 1,283 55,600,000 0.02 VW Automotive 44.5% 1,283 Mercedes Benz 806 45,500,000 0.02
  17. 17. Appendix The insights into General Motors warrant a deeper look. This brand consists of many sub- brands. Furthermore, the acronym “GM” is not to be overlooked as a keyword. We analyzed the volume of customer complaint queries for these sub-brands, and found a monthly total of 618 (compared to 1,478 for “General Motors”). This was calculated off a base of over 139 million broad-matched brand queries, resulting in a much lower index of 0.004 complaint queries per thousand. (Compare this to 1.48 for “General Motors”.) The conclusion drawn is that the keyword “General Motors” is associated with customer complaints about 370 times more frequently than the aggregation of its sub-brands. In other words, the cars themselves may be performing reasonably well, but as a company, GM is faced with an epic struggle in improving the perception of its corporate brand.
 The list included brands with a relationship to General Motors, including those sold in 2009 and those not offered in the United States: Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Chevy, Daewoo, GMC, GM, Holden, Hummer, Oldsmobile, Opel, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, and Vauxhall.