Complaining through social media is actually quite effective and I’ll share some constructive ways on how to use social media to solve your customer service issue with a company. Previously, consumers have been only equipped to send certified mail to the headquarters of large corporations to have their complaint heard at the right level – not anymore.
Full disclosure: I am responsible for addressing consumer feedback for Infusionsoft. Sometimes we earn a few complaints from users and I represent the company to make things right. My opinions expressed in this post do not represent the views of the company. Don’t take everything I say at face value.
UPDATE: Read my article for businesses on how to resolve complaints through social media. It very much compliments this article – hope you enjoy it! –J
Complaining through social media is actually easy for any average consumer to do. You don’t have to get special postage, wait weeks for a response or even have to initiate chargebacks through your credit card. By following this simple guide, you’ll be able to know how to effectively complain through social media and get results. At worst, you’ll feel a lot better that you told people about your complaint and had equal say in your consumer experience.
I strongly recommend you read how (and when) to turbo complaints to an executive’s desk. Many of the principles there describe how to solve customer services concerns outside of social media.
Before I get into the specifics, I want to lay out the big picture through a quick Q&A on it.
Why use social media to complain? Social media is validated as a public means to share feedback to companies. Likewise, companies seek out ways to keep their image in-tact, upstanding and good-natured. If someone’s upset, a company’s customer service or PR team will often want to tackle any threat to their brand with the utmost of great service. It’s not necessarily that the medium itself matters, it’s the fact companies have empowered their higher-tiered customer service to interact with customers through social media because that’s where people are going.
Why should I read this, I already use Twitter? Just because you have the tools to interact in social media, there is a right way to complain to a company and a wrong way. The advice I share is one that many other company representatives will agree with and comes from my honest experience as both an escalations specialist and a social media manager. I find the balance in providing good service and earning good business and will kick it to you straight.
What do I need to complain through social media? I recommend being prepared with a Twitter account, Facebook account, YouTube/Google account, a blog (WordPress is quick) and being registered on top content sharing sites like Digg, Reddit, Delicious, StumbleUpon, FriendFeed, etc. Half the battle is establishing yourself on these sites. You should hopefully be a little more active than only using social media to complain. On these sites, consider using your real name because that significantly helps companies uncover who you are and will reduce response time. Keep these presences updated and active so the content stays fresh and current. More content = the better.
With no further ado, here is how to complain effectively through social media:
Attempt all Reasonable Means Through Front-End Customer Service
When I say ‘attempt,’ I mean fully exhaust all means of customer service with the company. This might mean calling them at different times to get different support personnel. . This is key because it will bolster your complaint from “crazy person” into a victim of ignorance and neglect by the company. If you have a sense your concern won’t be redressed, start documenting it – saving names, phone numbers, reference numbers, emails, etc. Having facts of the situation will come into play later.
Research the Company and Their Interactions With Customers on the Web
Thanks to Google; this is actually fairly easy to figure out. It’s a good idea to get a feel for the marketing and the tone of the company through their literature on the website, email, etc. If they care about customer satisfaction, how can you contact them? Knowing all this will help you confirm you’ve exhausted all means to fix the situation.
Find the company’s social media presence. Many will have a Twitter, a blog, a Facebook and sometimes a YouTube presence. Scan through and see how they handle complaints and concerns from customers. If it’s simply a sounding-board for them to puff their feathers, your odds of getting your issue results drop substantially. Ideally, you want to see a lot of responses and activity to see they actually pay attention to social media.
Know their Twitter name, usually it’s the company brand, but sometimes it isn’t. For instance, Subway isn’t @subway on Twitter; they are @subwayfreshbuzz. Lame, huh?
Pro-tip: Use Google and search “COMPANYNAME Twitter” or “Facebook” to find the company’s official presence.
Publish a Tweet Directed at the Company Asking for Help
This is probably the easiest part, as it requires minimal work. First, follow the company on Twitter. This will allow them to send you a private message like email. Then simply something to the effect of, “@COMPANYNAME I need help and have an outstanding concern. Please DM me.”
What should happen, they will respond eagerly to offer assistance. Assume the person on the other end has no idea what you’ve been through and treat them nicely. Give them details and offer your name and number if you haven’t shared it.
If they don’t respond, no worries. You’re escalating your customer experience into a brand attack. It sucks when it gets to this point, but now you’re out for blood and will get it.
Pro-tip: Send your tweet during business hours for the most impact. Also, research if the CEO or key personnel use Twitter. Use this information to your advantage.
Write a Damaging Blog Post
Hopefully by now in 2010, you have a blog. If not, you can make one at WordPress.com and it has everything you need to write up your concerns. My advice is make sure your blog can be taken seriously, put a little love in it so the company doesn’t think it’s a spam-blog and dismisses it as corporate subterfuge.
When you write your post consider the Title to be the strongest element. It will carry weight when the search engines pick it up. I’d title it something to the effect of “COMPANYNAME Review – My Horrific Experience” Keep it simple and to the point but aggressive. Don’t use inflammatory language unless absolutely required. Sometimes, people judge your shit by how many “fucks” and “bitches” you put in your writing. (Hah, I knew I could get away with explicit language in this piece.) Make the post intelligible, include good grammar and is very detailed. Include all the references from step one earlier keeping an unbiased, fact-based picture of your experience. I suggest writing it Word first, then pasting it after many edits.
If you feel your concern is something others could rally around and support you in, submit it to Digg, Reddit and Delicious. These sites not only attract a rabid anti-corporate pack of animals on that company, they also build equity into your blog post for search engines. If you want a quick way to submit your site to social media sites, use SocialList. (You will need to have an account on all sites you submit to.) To make your post seem salvageable to the company state that you simply want help or “X” and that you will give them the respect of an updated outcome.
Pro-tip: More facts, the better. Companies can’t dispute the truth. Leave out any exaggerations as that will be what they defend against. Keep it to the point and passionate. You know, like my writing here. 😉
Use Video to Humanize Your Points – Write Another Blog Post and Tweet and Publish to Review sites
If a company still hasn’t responded (shocker!), escalate your attack to using video. Video is effective because it humanizes your complaint from words of text into a real person. Don’t be arrogant, paint yourself as the victim but don’t be unrealistic. Authenticity and genuine concerns go a long way to earning support from others.
Use a Flip cam or any webcam. It’s easy – the video file and upload it through a service called TubeMogul. This will syndicate your video (meaning, push) your video through a series of other video sites using the same description and stuff. This will raise visibility and speed up indexing your complaints about a company. Hopefully at some level of the company, they will see this and contact you.
Through this escalation, post another blog post enumerating the pains you’ve gone through to get the company to listen. Post a Tweet to the effect of, ”COMPANYNAME does not listen to customers. Read about my horrific customer experience: LINK”
And finally, publish your experience on Ripoff Report and Complaints Board. Those sites have high visibility on search engines and serves a sounding board for upset consumers and allows you to connect with other folks who are complaining about a company. This is the time to include links your prior activities showing ignorance of the company.
Through these five ways, you should be able to hopefully get your complaint remedied by the company. Not all companies are receptive to social media, so don’t think only because of social media you’ll get your complaint resolved, but there’s a good chance they’re listening and will solve your concerns.
The bottom line is this: be reasonable and fair. Every company makes its mistakes but it’s the resolutions that matter. Don’t expect split-second responses; give them a little time to research and fix the problem for you. It’s also a good idea to pay it forward once they resolve the issue and give the company props for good service if you got what was right.
Image credit: josh.liba