Proving once again that customer complaints can't be kept quiet in the digital age, research from cloud contact centre firm NewVoiceMedia has found that one third (34%) of US consumers take their revenge online following a poor customer service experience, spreading their complaints as far as possible across their social networks. This article is copyright 2014 The Best Customer Guide.

Thanks to social media, internet forums and review channels, the modern consumer has a convenient public platform at their fingertips and will spread negative sentiment about a business without thinking twice.

The survey of 2,030 adults showed that the figure soared to nearly 60% (59.3%) among 25-34 year-olds - clearly demonstrating the generational importance of a channel that's likely to explode in relevance as Gen Y consumers' spending power increases.

While 64% of those surveyed stated that traditional forms of communication such as email and phone were their preferred means of complaining for a fast response, more than a quarter of Gen Y and Millennials (those aged 16 to 34) believe social media is the most effective means of issue resolution, with Facebook proving to be the favoured social network for interacting with businesses. One respondent explained, "The risk of getting other people's attention will cause the service providers to act quickly."

However, the significance consumers place on excellent service presents opportunities as well as threats, as organisations can boost their business by getting it right, even turning complainants into advocates by prioritizing the service they receive through other channels.

Seventy percent of respondents said that good service had a considerable influence on their loyalty and 69% would recommend the company to others. Half would use the business more frequently and 42% are prepared to spend more money with them.

"Not long ago, customers would tell friends and family if they were dissatisfied with service they'd received," said Jonathan Gale, CEO for NewVoiceMedia. "While this is damaging to a brand, it's not nearly as powerful and immediate as customers who take their complaints online; particularly as consumers are increasingly turning online to read about others' experiences before choosing a product or supplier."

Customers want personalised and engaging experiences every time, through every channel. Great customer experience is the critical differentiator and by doing it well, brands can help drive both customer acquisition and customer retention.