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 TwitterSee 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:

 rp_Paul-Lewis-300x159.jpg

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.

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

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.

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!

 

 

Top 20 Tips for Complaining Effectively

 

 

 

 

Warning: How not complaining drives up fat cat profits!

Well, what happened in 2013? Just how much did I complain? Well, not a huge amount I would say. This doesn’t include public body complaints of course to which I do ask lots of Freedom of Information Act questions and complain!

I complained about all sorts of things from 40p from Tesco and the £40 from them in court. (See The Complaining Cow’s history with Tesco) to other supermarkets, banks and other retailers.

I know what you are thinking. 40p really? Yes really. Wrongly charged. Principle! Now, how many people do YOU think didn’t notice that wrong charge going through the till or in this case on an online order? How many thousands of people buy bacon a day do you think? Same with all the other small amounts. For example, 40p Really? I complained about 40p? Yes I did, and here’s why. I completed an online shopping order. All seemed fine. When I received my order with receipt, I checked it against the items. Oddly there was an additional item. This item was called “Department Sale”. What sort of vegetable is that you ask as well you might and so did I. After asking what this item was and apparently I had had two of them! Two lots of 20ps totalling 40p. So I was curious and as you know if you read my blog regularly, it’s a matter of principle! After asking about these charges this is how the email exchange panned out:

Tesco: If you order an item that isn’t on the online product database, we’re unable to scan the item through the home shopping system at your local store. So, to make sure that we don’t overcharge you for the product, we charge it at a heavily reduced price. This will show on your delivery paperwork as a 10p charge for example. I hope this has explained why we do this and thank you for taking the time to ask us about this.
Me: But what is the item?!!
Tesco: I am sorry that there has been such confusion over this issue and for the inconvenience being caused. Could you advise me of where this charge is shown on your order, and how much it is. I may be able to trace the product for you.
Me: You have had this information in the initial complaint. See attached please
Tesco: I am sorry but I have been unable to trace the exact goods that the charge relates to. However I have refunded the 40p back to your account and this will appear in 3 to 5 days. Thank you for your patience in this matter.
Me: So what you are saying is that there was no reason for this charge? I wonder how many other orders you put this charge on?
Tesco: Not at all! There was a reason for the charge as has been explained in previous emails. The problem is that without seeing what goods were physically delivered and then going through the delivery document to deduce which goods the charge was used for, it is impossible to say exactly what the charge was applied to.
Me: How can you order something online for an online order that isn’t on the database?
Tesco: Very easily when you start to understand that the online business and the store are different. An example would be where you might order apples online, but the store offer a regional variety of that apple which is not stored on our database. So to enable us to pick apples for you, we would have to mark it as a Department Sale to add it onto the order.
Me: I didn’t order anything that I’ve not ordered before and I’ve never had that remark on a receipt. Very dubious.

To which I did not have a response. Now, maybe I’m being thick and there was a good reason for the charge. I can’t really see it can you? Have you ever had this charge? Have you queried it? I wonder how many people have and haven’t queried it. Wonder what the total of “Department Sales” is.

So of course I complain about the larger amounts and encourage others to do so, but how much profit is being made from people not complaining about those pennies?

So, if you aren’t getting where with customer services you can always contact the CEO directly at ceoemail.com

book Logo cartoon cow at a laptop of book cover. How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results!

 

If you need help with complaining effectively GET THE BOOK! How To Complain: The ESSENTIAL Consumer Guide to Getting REFUNDS, Redress and RESULTS! for consumer laws, advice, guidance and template letters for most complaints in most sectors!

 

 

Top 20 Tips How to Complain!

Top 20 Tips for Complaining Effectively

 

Helen Dewdney, The Complaining Cow BBC Breakfast TV Discusses How We Complain in the UK