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:

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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

Conclusion
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.

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5 Responses to Is Social Media An Effective Method for Complaining?

  1. Marc Sneddon says:

    I am really enjoying your website – I saw it in this weeks Sunday Times. I used social media to launch my one man band complaint to Vodafone. I would appreciate any feedback on style/approach etc?

    I have another complaint around estate agent services from the Nottingham Building Society which I may blog about yet.

    Keep up the good work.

    Marc

    • The Complaining Cow says:

      Story on Vodafone coming up soon… Your link didn’t work but feel free to email me or send me a message on FB

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