An increasing number of consumers are turning to social media to make companies sit up and listen to their complaints, and I’m one of them.
Immediacy is undoubtedly social media’s biggest weapon. Long gone are the days when people are happy to wait days, or even weeks, for an acknowledgement of or a response to their complaint – they want it now.
Years ago, companies were able to take their time responding to disgruntled consumers, with very little repercussions, other than the fact the customer had most probably followed up their progress on several occasions. Complainants were clearly at the mercy of companies.
However, things have drastically changed. Consumers are increasingly becoming tuned into the fact that the best way to get a response, and get one now, is to utilise social media. And the bigger the reputation at stake, the more likely you are to get a speedy response.
Interestingly, the BBC recently set up an experiment to see whether complaining to a business through social media generates a faster response than email.
And after contacting five different companies via email and Twitter to ask them to get in touch with them about a problem, all five responded personally and quickly to the tweets in just a matter of minutes.
When complaints are aired in this ‘public arena’ organisations feel more obliged to respond for fear of their reputation easily being tarnished in one foul tweet or Facebook post. However, just because a company has initially acknowledged your social media message, they may not always be necessarily that efficient at providing a full response.
Here are just a couple of examples of how consumers have successfully turned to the power of social media to voice their complaints.
- British Airways – a disgruntled customer found a new way to use social media to take on the big corporation. Fed up with the way BA was handling the issue of his father’s lost luggage, businessman, Hasan Syed, paid for the promoted tweet – ‘Don’t fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous.’
Six hours after the tweet had gone live, and subsequently picked up by a news website, it had been read by thousands of Twitter users, retweeted and widely commented on. Interestingly, it took BA four hours to respond.
- Virgin Media – Jim Boyden posted a photograph on Facebook of a bill from Virgin Media for his late father-in-law, which included a £10 fine for late payment. Mr Boyden’s post was shared more than 90,000 times after he posted it on the social networking site.
Virgin Media subsequently issued an apology after the post had gone viral however, the damage had already been done to its reputation.
- NTL – Robert Stokes’ letter to British cable company, NTL, which was widely published on the web, is also up there in the list of all-time letters of complaint. Mr Stokes’ extremely vocal and to-the-point correspondence, which starts with the address ‘Dear Cretins….’, went viral soon after it being posted online and has been widely talked about ever since.