Pain Points: Understanding When and Why Customers Take Action Against Big Tech

July 7, 2021
Author: Nancy Arter
Pain Points: Understanding When and Why Customers Take Action Against Big Tech

As big tech firms have disrupted industries, grown rapidly and ingrained their products further and further into our lives over the past decade, customers’ expectations have evolved. Not surprisingly, the sheer ubiquity of smartphones, social media and other big tech offerings came as the result of positive experiences—however, the recent influx of data insecurity, inquiries into antitrust practices and questions around fair treatment of employees is no longer something our lawmakers and society can ignore. The business models and priorities of tech giants are under more scrutiny than ever as more people are connected to them and are continually paying closer attention to their words and actions.

So, when do customers say “enough is enough” and take real action—and what are they hoping to achieve?

When Push Comes to Shove

Because big tech is such an integral part of our everyday lives, customers have a high threshold for taking “negative action.” Actions such as not purchasing another device, stopping their use of a service but maintaining their account or profile, dispensing of a product, or switching to a competitor have day-to-day impacts on the customers who decide such actions are necessary.

That’s why many customers are resistant to boycott-like actions regardless of what certain tech companies do and say. The threshold is particularly high for Amazon and Facebook where we found in a recent study that 46% and 40% of respondents, respectively, don’t plan to alter their use of these companies’ services in light of negative press. For other tech companies, we see a mix of positive and negative consumer reactions across all the brands evaluated in our survey. And, while people who take action against a big tech brand are typically looking to send a message of discontent and hope the company takes notice, we find there is often an opposite and equal positive response from other customers.

Actions Consumers Have Taken or Plan to Take As a Result of Big Tech Business Practices

What does this mean? Does this give big tech more power to do as they like? The amount of noise surrounding the business practices of tech companies suggests a more nuanced and complicated answer to these questions. Setting aside the seemingly constant stream of negative news and rhetoric, there is a common theme that needs to be addressed. Data security, management and accountability.

The abundance and availability of data have resulted in a significant increase in the misuse of personal data, and cybercrime seems to increase daily. There is little recourse for individuals and companies that have been hacked or scammed. Considering the personal sacrifice it would take to withdraw from many of the big tech products and services, consumers are looking to lawmakers to establish more regulation around how data are stored, managed, protected and sold.

Understanding the Trigger Point

One way for brands to potentially slow support for further government regulation is to publicly, transparently and genuinely acknowledge the concerns of boycotters—and then demonstrate how the company is taking action to constructively and thoughtfully address the consumers’ worries. While some people may take action against tech companies because of an irreconcilable difference in values, many times consumers are concerned with big tech business practices. The biggest example involves customer data and what brands should—and, more importantly, shouldn’t—do with said data. In these cases, tech companies can address customers’ actions taking hold at a grassroots level and turn the tide with effective communication and business practice changes. Often, demonstrating the customers’ concerns are being heard and corrective actions are being evaluated is enough to earn back the trust and loyalty of customers.

To learn more about customers’ reactions to the business practices of big tech firms, read the full paper for yourself: Big Tech Under Pressure: How to Navigate Disruption and Come Out on Top.

Download Big Tech Under Pressure: How to Navigate Disruption and Come Out on Top

Nancy Arter
Senior Vice President

Nancy Arter is a senior vice president in the Technology & Telecommunications divisions at Escalent. She has more than 25 years of experience, most recently serving as SVP at HarrisX (acquired from Nielsen). Nancy has built a reputation for forging close client relationships by uncovering specific research challenges and developing innovative and effective solutions to solve them. At Escalent, she uses her leadership skills to nurture a number of the firm's most important client relationships. Outside of Escalent, Arter is the newly elected chairperson of the Board at Pediatric Therapy Network, a sensory integration clinic focused on children of all abilities. Nancy is a native Californian, an avid fitness nut, and loves spending time with her loved ones, including her pug, Woody.