Monthly Archives: March 2015

Handling Customer Complaints on Social Media

Customer complaints

I made a complaint recently against the AA (the breakdown service not the self-help group for alcoholics). Now, they’re not bad people but they had taken a considerable sum of money out of my bank account and sent me into overdraft meltdown – I was waiting for money to go in but it wasn’t going to cover the whole amount that had been siphoned off so ruthlessly.

As you appreciate, being a freelancer that filthy Dinero stuff tends to come in drips and drops rather than a big monthly flood.

Anyway, I called them up and complained and they cancelled the deal but said that the money would take 4 to 5 days to get back into my account. I wasn’t happy about that but there was nothing practical to be done so I waited. Five days later I found the money still hadn’t been refunded and so I took to my normal default position and posted about it on social media.

It’s a nasty habit, but sometimes it pays off.

This is really the point I want to make, about companies that handle customer complaints on social media, or not as the case often tends to be. I tweeted something snarky about the AA and, as with many organisations nowadays, their Twitter help desk responded fairly quickly asking me for the details via DM so they could look into it for me.

Now, I’ve had this before, but I live in perpetual hope. Don’t we all? We hope that our rant into the Twitter-verse will get some positive result like the refund of money, an apology, the end of the world as we know it. Mostly in the past I’ve DM’d and got feck all out of the company in question. It seems their social media response is about damage limitation and appearing to do the ‘right’ thing in the eyes of any followers that may accidentally pick up on any errant tweets.

I wasn’t expecting much.

Fair do to the AA, though, an hour later I got a call from their head office, a very nice person, apologising for delay – my refund had been processed and it should go through in the next few days. I grumbled ruefully some more as my master plan for indignation at being ignored had gone awry and complained about bank charges and that I was a lowly freelancer etc etc.

Then the complaints bod quite skilfully and without any prompting managed to confuse me by offering £50 towards those bank costs which threw me because, when I do get through to someone, I normally end up dealing with a drone who doesn’t want to take any responsibility at all. The upshot is that the money was refunded shortly after and a couple of days later I received a cheque for the bank charges.

To complete my side of the bargain, I tweeted to my several thousand followers again that the AA actually do a pretty excellent job with business complaints – it’s only fair, after all.

A Quick Guide to Customer Complaints Success

My point is that this is how complaints on social media should be handled. Not only is it advertising for your business, it’s also an opportunity for you to show that you have good customer care credentials and can sort out problems quickly and efficiently. The AA did it in an exemplary fashion and rightly should be commended. Other companies are, unfortunately, lagging behind.

Some of the mistakes businesses, both big and small, make are:

  • Sending out automated responses to complaints or detrimental tweets.
  • Failing to follow up on complaints.
  • Failing to resolve said complaint to the customer’s advantage.

Now I know that the last one may well get a few alarm bells ringing in businesses across the land. I had a valid complaint and there was no particular reason why it couldn’t be sorted out to my advantage. I got my money back and a nominal amount to cover the bank charges incurred. The AA kept a customer happy and I wasn’t left out of pocket.

But what if the customer doesn’t have a valid complaint and still slags your business off on social media?

Here’s the problem: I have a sizable Twitter account with around 25,000 followers most of whom are real (give or take a few harmless bots). That means, as a customer, I have a certain amount of leverage. If I was unscrupulous, I could essentially use that account to lose companies I didn’t like business. People respect what I say (to a certain extent) and often retweet what I post. Those 25,000 followers can help me reach hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions in one go. That goes way beyond the old word of mouth of yesteryear where complaints had a much more limited reach.

There’s no doubt that it’s a problem for businesses of all sizes but having a coherent policy for social media and handling customer complaints can go a long way to making sure that the best is made of the situation. On the opposite end of the scale, a complaint successfully handled can also provide good, and largely free, advertising for a company.

If you want to know more about handling customer complaints on social media then take a look at this article from Concept 5.