Toyota Leads Global Brands in Negatively-Motivated Search Query Behavior, According to 2011 Customer Complaint Index From Web Liquid Group

Brands in the Consumer Electronics, Restaurant and Financial Services Industries Join Automotive Manufacturers Among the Most Common Targets for Negative Consumer Feedback

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwire - March 23, 2011) - Toyota, beset by safety problems and recalls in the United States for the last year, led all major global brands in online complaint queries according to Web Liquid Group's new 2011 Customer Complaint Index. They were joined at the top of the list by Nokia, McDonald's, Honda and Pizza Hut.

"Consumers repeatedly use search engines to locate complaints posted by dissatisfied customers about certain products and services, or perhaps post complaints of their own," said Paul Burani, partner at Web Liquid. "This illustrates the bond that exists between search engines and word-of-mouth channels like blogs, forums, and social media sites. The Customer Complaint Index helps us quantify that relationship and gain insights to advise marketing response."

To compile the data used for its 2011 Customer Complaint Index, Web Liquid used data from Google to study complaint queries for more than 100 brands featured on the Interbrand list of Best Global Brands. While not identical to the volume of complaints themselves, complaint queries are a strong signal of consumers' intent to read or contribute negative feedback about a company or brand.

Web Liquid's 2011 Customer Complaint Index also highlights other findings:

  • A significant portion of complaint queries are made from mobile devices. This trend was dominated by fast food brands: Burger King, Pizza Hut, Starbucks, McDonald's and KFC.

  • The significant advertising opportunities tied to this complaint-oriented search behavior are mainly being overlooked. Among those brands that have indeed taken advantage, the consumer electronics and automotive lead the way, with Mercedes-Benz ranking first.

  • Amazon and UPS observed significant seasonal spikes in complaint queries during the 2010 holiday season, as did manufacturers of popular gift items such as Sony, Panasonic and Disney.

  • When analyzing the complaint queries' relative proportion to total brand search queries, the leader was not Toyota. Instead, financial services brands occupied four of the top six positions: Allianz, Santander, Goldman Sachs and AXA. In Santander's case, the high volume of complaint queries actually coincided with a major improvement in their customer service performance.

"Online consumers continue to become more sophisticated," Burani says. "We know that search engines play a pivotal role early in the research process, as they begin to make purchasing decisions. Ultimately, the key ingredient is trust -- and that's where reviews and opinions from other consumers are so valuable in making the decision.

"But they're not just useful to consumers," Burani continued. "The brands can use these insights from word-of-mouth and social media channels to better understand their audience and galvanize their relationships with customers. Banco Santander of Spain was so inundated with customer dissatisfaction last year, they were forced to overhaul their entire complaint handling procedure. Since then, they're reporting an improvement in their key customer service metrics, and meanwhile we've actually seen a substantial increase in their complaint queries.

"I can't think of a better illustration of negative feedback being used to a brand's advantage."

About Web Liquid Group

Founded in 2003, Web Liquid is a digital marketing agency which places Word-of-Mouth (WOM) insight at the core of all its marketing programs. By delivering a proposition built around meaningful, customer-centric dialogue, Web Liquid helps its clients inspire confidence in consumers, trust in their brands and better ROI. 

Web Liquid maintains offices in New York, London, and Lagos, Nigeria. 

Contact Information:

Harrison Wise
(212) 777-3235