social media Topical

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.

The twitter symbol How not to complain on Twitter



See also 5 ways how not to use Twitter to complain (and 5 ways how you should)

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.

More recently in 2018 people took to Twitter to complain about Kentucky Fried Chicken’s chicken shortage. Many hilarious tweets, what was better were KFC’s responses.

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.

When it definitely doesn’t work

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 so few 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. See Why you should write not ‘phone to complain effectively 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.

How to complain effectively Rip Off Britain 24/09/14

BBC Breakfast 06/07/2016 social media and complaining

BBC Breakfast Helen Dewdney and Steph discuss complaining on social media 06/07/16


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.

How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!


For really effective complaining and ensuring you always get redress from complaints GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! template letters, advice, consumer laws and more!


5 top tips for complaining effectively







What happens when a business doesn’t prepare for a promotion

So bargains. We all love ’em unless of course you are too rich or idiotic to care! In which case you wouldn’t be reading my blog on either count. So last Christmas I thought I’d buy some Body Shop stuff as presents. Get this! 16% off through Topcashback* (that is one of the cashback sites which give the most return) then a 50% off code. So off I went to buy lots of stuff!

Website Meltdown

Apparently though, it would appear that lots of other people had the same thought and the site went down. Not completely. One could waste one’s time putting items in their basket only to not be able to checkout. I took to Twitter and Facebook, as did many other people. I emailed. I was told that due to all the problems of course they were inundated and one had to wait days for a reply. I am The Complaining Cow, I don’t do waiting.

I told the social media team on Twitter that I would get a response quicker than they said. They argued that I would not. I emailed the CEO of the Body Shop. I got a reply within five hours. Actually I got a ‘phone call within hours but as you know I don’t do ‘phone calls regarding complaints either!

I wrote explaining that I had been inconvenienced and that now the Topcashback percentage had gone down and casting doubts on the legality of the site stating that one could purchase items online when one couldn’t.


The CEO (Jeremy another one on first name terms this early on!) apologised, told me he had assigned the issue to someone else and would follow up. I thanked him and pointed out that I had deliberately finished my Christmas shopping in stores to continue on line and that the site had been down for many days. I put in a plea for everyone else too saying that I noted his remark regarding that he too would be frustrated and annoyed in the same position but nothing was being done about everyone else in the same position and that having the website down for so many days was just ridiculous. So to anyone else who had problems with The Body Shop website last Christmas I did try and sort it out for you too!

(Incidentally you can use to find contact details for any CEO.)

Anyway I agreed to a ‘phone call to get my order in time and with all the discounts. Of course some of the items had gone out of stock in this time so I got a couple of upgrades for free a gift and a £10 voucher.

Excellent. Nope, look how it was delivered:

Stained carpetBody Shop oil leakage

As you can see the oil lid was not on properly. Oil leaked over everything including my carpet.

So obviously I complained! Surely you would? Surely people would complain about this? Tell me why if you wouldn’t!

So back I went to my mate Jeremy and Sonja who had been dealing with this. (The chappie she got to ‘phone me each time was very good has to be said). I pointed out their legal obligations and of course they offered to pay for the carpet to be cleaned.

I was gutted, the professional clean got the stain out. Could have done with a new hallway carpet.

I spoke about this on ITV News:

How to complain about deliveries

Simple lessons for consumer and business

So consumers, if you don’t get the response you want when using social media go higher. Consumer rights, remember you have them! Make sure you have your legal rights to hand and be assertive, but not rude there is a difference. As for business, look it isn’t rocket science. You offer good bargains that close to Christmas your website is likely to have problems. To not be prepared is short sighted and the trouble caused reflects badly on your company. To continue not sorting the problem, several days later is daft isn’t it? Really? Prepare for problems and make sure you have the technical support to deal with any issues as soon as they arise. It’s no good thinking that you are going to bring in more sales with great offers if you can’t deliver. In this case deliver service and products safely! Look at every part of the team which is going to be under pressure with increase in orders which will increase with a backlog. Ensure that your social media team are geared up to help and assist customers not just spout the same useless lines all the time. It isn’t their fault if they are not helping customers IF they have not been given the tools and resources to resolve problems.

So am I right? To me, it’s just common sense. It’s not rocket science to prepare for a promotion. Getting your website to work properly and putting in measures to deal with problems before they arise? Is it more complicated than I would suggest?

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If you suffer problems with goods and services and need to complain see the Tips for effective complaining and for even more information, advice guidance, consumer law and templates GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS!


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