If social media ever needs a symbol, a lever might be most appropriate. A recent white paper provides more support for viewing Facebook, Twitter, et al, as tilting the balance of power between customers and companies — toward the customer.

The white paper, “A Nation of Serial Switchers” from cloud contact center vendor NewVoiceMedia, found that nearly 60 percent of 25-to-34-year-olds are happy to get even with a company via negative tweets, feeds, and postings after a bad customer service experience.

Using a sample of 2030 adults, the study was designed to provide a snapshot of where U.S. customer service is today. The bottom line: U.S. companies flush away somewhere in the neighborhood of $40 billion because of bad customer experiences.

NewVoiceMedia CEO Jonathan Gale told VentureBeat that this estimate could be low, because it “doesn’t account for the significant cost of replacing lost customers and the impact of negative word of mouth.”

This is not the first time a report has found that customer service in the era of multiple devices, wireless ‘Net, and competing services available within a few seconds is not for the faint of heart. But this study paints a somewhat bleaker picture than others.

‘Lack of appreciation’

For instance, it finds that “many consumers believe that the process of resolving issues is so cumbersome that they will switch without even attempting to make contact.” For those that do make an effort, phone calls are still the channel of choice for the quickest response.

And slightly more than half of the 44 percent who took their business elsewhere because of bad customer service did so simply because of “a lack of appreciation.” This includes nearly half of switchers who became unhappy because they had to repeat themselves to multiple agents.

With stats like those, let most of us give thanks for being on the customer’s side of the lever.

The good news: Give us a good customer experience and we can become loyal. Seventy percent of the respondents feel that way, and we give Apple, Trader Joe’s, and USAA (United Services Automobile Association) a lot of wiggle room because of their great customer service agree.

The bad news: Loyalty isn’t as faithful as it used to be. According to the NewVoiceMedia study, today’s U.S. customers are about as fickle as someone with a short attention span in a speed-dating match.

“Loyal customers today,” it reports, “are simply the ones that return at all.”