When the social media team turns anti-social…

Social media? What’s it about? It’s all about people.

It’s about people connecting with other people in their personal lives and about people connecting with people in their work lives, at companies and other organisations.

What can customers expect from social media exchanges with companies on Facebook and Twitter?  Well, they would hope that a straight question would be greeted with a straight answer, at all times and without unnecessary delays.

So, what happens when a person at a company seems to lose this basic ability to answer a straight question?

Well, it seems to happen a lot. And it happens around a very simple question. Have a look:

What’s the question being asked here?  It’s one of the most basic and easiest-to-answer questions a person can ask about any organisation when something has gone wrong:  Who is in charge? Who is the top person in the organisation?

Why does this matter?
It matters because when customers don’t get answers from “customer services”, or when “customer services” people are not empowered to make a difference, then it’s time to escalate the issue to the person who can make a difference, the Managing Director or CEO. This is the person who has executive power to intervene and resolve an issue that has gone on for too long or which is not being handled properly.

Why does the social media team suddenly become “anti-social”?
Social media teams have in general got better at handling customer enquiries and responding to questions in a timely manner. This is because using social media is a cost-effective way of connecting with customers and of helping them with their problems with a company’s product or service. And when it works well for customers, it can help enhance a company’s public image. But where a company does not respond on social media, or where questions are met with resistance, as shown above, then this can only have a negative effect on the customer’s view of a company.

There are several possible reasons why a social media team member is unable to answer a basic question of the type shown above:

  • Ignorance – They genuinely do not know who is the Managing Director or CEO of their own organisation – this is very unlikely, as everyone knows the name of their boss! And if an employee doesn’t know the name of their boss, what else do they not know? If they don’t understand their own company and its people, how can they possibly be of any use to anyone outside of it?
  • Outsourcing – The social media feed is being run by someone who does not work for the company and who doesn’t know the name of the boss of their client – this is also unlikely but possible… In this case a company that has outsourced its social media should ensure that the company providing service on Facebook and Twitter is fully informed about their client and its key people and can properly answer customers’ questions about it.
  • Lack of Empowerment – The social media person is not empowered to provide the information requested. This happens when a company does not entrust its social media staff with the power to make a difference to customer enquiries. If the social media person is unable tell a customer who is the boss, then he/she is also often unlikely to make a difference to customer service issues. Using a social media team, whether inside or outside the company, who are not empowered on a social media site is worse than not having a social media presence at all…
  • No Name policy – The dreaded “no name” policy… In these situations, the company has a policy which means that any questions asking for the names of people in an organisation are met with a blunt refusal to answer the question.

Does “No name” mean no responsibility?
A company “no name” policy is an unfortunate hangover from the 20th century, where companies would refuse to provide the names of their directors and staff, out of fear that they might be “poached” by other companies. In the 21st century some companies believe they can use a “no name” policy to shield their senior staff from their customers. Staff may do this because they believe the CEO should not have to deal with customers and/or because they think that it will expose the poor performance of the customer service team.

In a connected world of social media there is simply no place for a “no name” policy at any organisation. Any company or organisation that still has a “no name” policy in the 21st century needs to take a serious look at itself, its attitude to its customers and to the world in general.

Openness and Transparency are key
The companies that perform best at customer services, especially on social media, are those which are open with their customers about the problems they encounter and transparent about their organisation and the people who lead it and work for it. These companies are honest about situations when they mess up, they empower their staff to tell the truth and they allow their customers to make contact with the person who can make a real difference, the CEO or MD.

So, the next time you see a “social media” team on Facebook or Twitter being “anti-social” and telling you that he or she cannot tell you the name of the boss, demand to know why… then go and find the contact details for the boss on http://CEOemail.com   And take it to the top…!


Today’s guest post was written by Marcus Williamson 
Marcus Williamson is a journalist and consumer campaigner with a background in the Information Technology sector. In 2010 he established the website http://CEOemail.com which now helps more than 11,000 people every day to resolve consumer issues by escalating them to the individuals who can make a difference.



The Complaining Cow and Rip Off Britain

I was on Rip Off Britain. Luckily not live but unluckily not with the hair and make up lady working miracles like she did when I was on BBC Breakfast! 🙁 (If it is now after the programme and you’ve found your way to this site after seeing me, thanks!) Welcome to my blog full of (occasional rants), redress, refunds and results.

I’ll say now of course that they edited out all the best bits of me where I was very witty, charming, pleasant and gave loads of splendid advice.

So for those of you new here, I thought it might be useful just to give you some links to various posts you may find helpful and may have been hoping to find when you got here rather than the drivel you’ve just read.

You can see the clips from the episode

Various pages and posts you might find of interest
I think, if they keep it in there was much coverage of using social media to complain. Here is my post about my full thoughts on that.
Top Tips for complaining effectively
7 common fobs offs companies use to not give refunds!
Your rights mail order, online and delivery
Up to date information on changes made to consumer law earlier this year giving you more rights.
How to take charge of your energy bills
The ultimate guide to complaining when eating out

CEOemail for contact details for all CEOs

As well as posts aimed at informing people about their consumer rights, the blog is full of stories of effective complaining, just take a look around. But for now I just give you Tesco. Now! There are a lot of Tesco posts on here and if you put Tesco into the search thingy on the right lots of posts will come up. In fact, my very first post was about Tesco and that gives you links to all the other posts. (I particularly like all the comments which I do believe has helped the blog’s Google ranking for when you put in “Tesco complaints”. Contact details, MSE site, then my post. Well I think it is funny!) But for now you might like the fact that I took them to court and won. And no I am not the reason they have the financial problems that they do, although I did predict they would have problems because Clarke didn’t listen to customers. All the Tesco posts are listed here.

Social media
Youtube channel – links to various radio and tv appearances, videos of me providing info on tips on effective complaining. (Also a few clips on a surgery with Iain Duncan Smith where I took him to task a bit, to no avail but I do believe in effective complaining rather than just moaning, I tried). You can subscribe to my channel there too.
Twitter – follow me here for top tip tweets, rants and general chit chat
Facebook – please like my page for various updates and join in the rants, questions, funny pictures or links of the day from me. 🙂

To keep up to date with consumer news and The Complaining Cow sign up for the newsletter. I only send emails a few times a year when I remember. I certainly won’t be spamming you, but the next one will be out shortly with news on survey results and my NEW BOOK  out now!

Thank you for visiting and hope to see you again soon.


Is Social Media An Effective Method for Complaining?

I often get asked if social media has changed things in the way we complain. Not as much as people think I would say.

Twitter – Has it changed the way we complain?
Last year the One Show contacted me to ask my opinion on this subject and I gave it to them. Obviously. Like I wouldn’t give my opinion when asked, give it enough when not. Anyway, I told them that I didn’t think that it had changed the way we complain much. Communicate yes but not effectively complain. I gave my reasons knowing that it didn’t really fit with what they wanted and of course they chose someone else. However they chose someone who said that it had changed the way we complain because people could now tweet train companies and ask why there was a delay. That is not a complaint. That is asking for information. Information which should of course be given at the station but invariably is not. Using Twitter to ask these types of questions is great but it isn’t complaining. To complain about the train service you have to go through certain channels to have a chance of gaining any financial redress. Complaining is gaining redress is it not? Certainly complaining effectively would be otherwise it isn’t complaining it is having a moan or a go at someone/company.

Social media memorable complaint stories
There have been some great complaints on social media. David Caroll’s United Airlines and the man who paid for tweets to complain about BA losing his luggage (that worked out a penny a tweet though so why would you?) But these go viral because they provide something different not because the company has responded well to a complaint.

Remember O2 problems in 2012 with outage and thousands of people resorted to Twitter to complain? O2’s response was good humoured and worked really well. Making jokes about their bad days and responding to everyone turned a potential PR disaster into a positive one showing how positively they dealt with complaints. That was in 2012, most companies have got a long way to go in dealing with complaints generally as well as on social media. Some companies have even been known to delete complaints on their Facebook page. Shortsighted given that the person who has had their tweet deleted will post on their own page and get it shared, post on Twitter and get retweeted etc. Far better to engage properly. Mistakes happen and complaints arise, it is how they are dealt with that is important.

Complaining on social media – does it work?
Paul Lewis money chappie asked on Twitter the other week:


The responses to Paul’s tweet were interesting. You can see his post here. Many people said it was quicker than phoning. But a) I very rarely ‘phone my complaints for many reasons and b) they were still having to email the issues in many cases. Others said that it was good for shaming. Others said it was good for getting a response but once into DMs and emails it dropped off again. (This is one of the reasons I ended up taking Tesco to court. My last shot was to engage the social media team but they were still unable to help.) No-one had any really complicated problem sorted but a few did get their issues sorted once the social media team got involved. It has been known for people to copy me into a tweet and have their issues resolved! That makes me laugh but people really shouldn’t have to do that.

What was also very interesting was what companies are alert and pro active in picking up their mentions whether included in the tweets to Paul or not. Very few!

My experiences
2014-04-30Ok, so you have seen me tweet to the likes of Tesco, Marks and Spencer and Sainsbury’s and gain redress. Yep. Now that’s where I love Twitter for complaining. A quick picture of damaged (or whatever fault) goods and a tweet and bingo, done. Tweet back asking for order details a dm and refund made. Perfect, probably takes the same length of time to do as an email but you have to find the email address (although obviously in my case they are all in my address book!) and they can take a long time to respond. It also saves going to the shop to take something back.



So that’s an example of social media working well. Basically where it is quick and simple it works really well. However anything more than something that can be sorted quickly, how can 140 characters possibly work? When I had a problem ordering stuff with The Body Shop last Christmas I tweeted the problem and the delay in responding to me. They were overwhelmed by emails tweets and FB messages with the same complaint and it didn’t make any difference to the standard responses it was giving people. Nor did any issues get resolved. My detailed complaint to the CEO did get results though….!

Other ways of complaining
I always advocate writing over ‘phoning. More here for reasons and what to do and these apply when taking the matter into dms and emails after using social media. Update April 2016 I wrote Email, social media or phone? How do you prefer to complain? for Which? conversation with more on this whole area for people to discuss.

Rip Off Britain
Paul Lewis and I talk social media complaining on Rip Off Britain.

BBC Breakfast 06/07/2016 social media and complaining

Generally speaking, and obviously I see complaining a lot(!) the responses to Paul’s tweet confirmed what I see, get told, advise on, as well as my own experience. Social media is another tool, nothing more and nothing less. It is another means for which you can complain. It has a place and I use it. It is quick, some companies are better than others at dealing with the complaints (usually coming down to training in communication, processes etc. and if staff have been adequately equipped with knowledge and are empowered). But it is still a mixed bag out there as to who is good and who isn’t.

How have you found complaining on social media? Which companies have you found to be good and bad at dealing with complaints via social media? Results of a survey found that 37% of those who use social media find it effective sometimes.