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More than half of Fortune 500 companies still do not provide their Twitter handles on the 'contact us' page of their websites, and 40% of start-ups and multi-national companies are concerned about customer criticisms spreading quickly via social networking sites, according to research by customer experience solutions provider Genesys. This article is copyright 2012 The Best Customer Guide.

The study found that leading consumer-facing companies from across the globe shy away from listing social media as a means for customers to contact them. More than half (55%) of consumer-facing Fortune 500 businesses do not provide their Twitter handles on their Contact Us pages, making it more difficult for customers to engage with them over social media networks.

Additionally, despite the fact that Facebook reports having some 900 million users across the world, only half of these businesses (51%) provide a link to their Facebook page on the Contact Us section of the company web site.

These figures are supported by additional research recently conducted by Genesys in conjunction with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), involving 798 senior executives and board members of large multi-national and start-up companies in 69 countries. Only 26% believed that customer recommendations would have a positive effect and just 15% believed that new communication channels could create brand ambassadors among their customers.

The fear of customer criticism spreading quickly to others on social networking sites was a huge concern, with 40% of respondents being primarily concerned about the potential negative effects of customer criticism.

Among the study's key findings:

  • 27% of consumer-facing Fortune 500 corporations do not list social media channels on their website homepage.
  • 89% failed to list an e-mail address on their contact page. Instead, 83% of companies included a contact form - often off-putting to consumers and seen as a 'black hole' for their complaints.
  • 13% of companies do not list a phone number on their Contact Us page.

"These findings are an indication that social media is still a very new phenomenon, but in fact, by overcoming this fear of customer criticism, you can inspire brand advocates," concluded Tom Eggemeier, head of global sales for Genesys. "Many large consumer-facing companies are still struggling and not confident in their ability to deal with customer queries and complaints via social media. Consumer-facing companies need to resolve this disconnect by developing a customer service strategy that understands and integrates social media channels across every customer touch point, as part of a wider multichannel customer conversation."