Facebook’s ‘Dislike’ Button: Accountability and Opportunity in a World of Dislikes

For businesses, this coming update has the potential to reshape the way consumers interact with their brand on Facebook. Those that aren’t prepared are already behind the curve.

The long-awaited Facebook “dislike” button is making its debut in the near future. Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement that Facebook is poised to ship a test version has been met with excitement from users who have clamored for this feature over the years.

But for businesses, this coming update has the potential to reshape the way consumers interact with their brand on Facebook. Those that aren’t prepared are already behind the curve.

The intent is to give users the ability to express empathy because “not every moment is a good moment,” as Zuckerberg said. This little dislike button will have large implications for brands, however, undoubtedly widening the gap between those who can quickly interpret and respond to customer emotion, and those who cannot.

Creating customer relationships guided by empathy is the holy grail of building long-term loyalty and profitability. A business that demonstrates an understanding of the customer’s needs, wants, and emotions will surpass its competitors, even in the “not-so-good” moments. Forrester vice president Megan Burns found that emotion was the No. 1 factor in customer loyalty across 17 of the 18 industries that the firm studied.

On the surface, the dislike button offers an opportunity for businesses to gain additional insight into customer emotion. But really all the button is indicating is that the customer has some form of negative emotion. Is it disappointment? Frustration? Anger? Impatience? Injustice? And most importantly, why? Did the product fail to meet expectations? Was the call center too slow to pick up the phone? Was the website difficult to navigate? Was a store employee unhelpful?

According to a study produced by the London School of Economics and The Listening Co, “companies with higher negative word of mouth grow slower than their competitors.” The study ties this to the bottom line, stating that a 7-point increase in word of mouth advocacy can increase revenue by 1 percent. For many organizations this represents a huge opportunity.

Now combine these numbers with the dislike button. It is the latest manifestation of a critical trend for brands to get a handle on – the rapidly increasing number of channels that customers have to provide feedback in real-time. We are in the “age of the customer” and as consumers become increasingly empowered to voice their opinions and share their experiences, businesses are held to a higher standard. Consumers may not expect businesses to understand their emotions and everything that’s happening in their lives, but they are raising the bar on things like responsiveness, and holding businesses accountable for acting on the feedback that they provided.

74 percent of people who complain on social media expect a response within an hour. Additionally, 1 out of 2 people prefer to contact a business via social media for support instead of using the phone. It goes back to accountability. If you have a Facebook page or a Twitter handle, consumers expect you to respond in a timely manner.

In addition to responding to customers and having a greater 1-to-1 accountability, businesses can better understand customer needs, wants, and desires by diving into the comments. For example, let’s say a large retailer posts a promotion to its Facebook page, offering 25 percent off of all online purchases, using a special discount code.

The post receives thousands of comments and receives more dislikes than likes. The retailer performs text analytics on these comments to see that two popular items are out of stock and that customers think the shipping costs are too high. On the plus side, customers are enjoying the extra savings and are excited about one new product in particular.

The retailer now knows to work on inventory issues and re-evaluate its shipping rates, and for the next promotion, to feature a picture of the new product that people loved. In this way, Facebook likes and dislikes can be seen as multiple choice survey responses, with the comments section being similar to the open-ended responses.

With the dislike button on the horizon, businesses have the opportunity to glean additional insights directly from their customers, and demonstrate empathy both on an individual level (by responding) and an aggregate level (by improving the customer experience). According to Gartner analyst Jake Sorofman, over 85 percent of businesses will strive to compete on customer experience in 2016, and customer experience starts with empathy. The dislike button and its accompanying comments offer businesses an opportunity to uncover customer emotion and make emotionally intelligent decisions.

Susan GaneshanSusan Ganeshan is chief marketing officer of Clarabridge, which provides intelligent customer experience management solutions for some of the world’s top brands. Under Susan’s leadership, Clarabridge Marketing produces insightful, educational content that enables business leaders to deliver on the promise of best-in-class customer experience.