Why it pays to complain via Twitter

A man complaining Using social media to get a complaint heard is expected to increase in popularity

Related Stories

There was a time when a strongly worded letter was the only means of having your complaint heard by a company, but is tweeting now the best way to get your gripe to the front of the queue?

When Angie Konrad tweeted that the heating was switched off on her train, she did not expect the operators of that line to read the message and alert the driver to switch the heating on so she could enjoy the rest of her journey in comfort.

Twitter is enabling companies to engage in a much warmer relationship with their clientele, but when things go wrong for the customer, it is also the best way to get grievances resolved quickly and in real time says comedian David Schneider, who is also a Twitter expert and runs social media consultancy That Lot.

"If you're 29th in the queue on a phone call, only you know that. It's you and the person who's keeping you on hold. But if you tweet, it's public and it could be picked up, and I think companies are very aware of that," says Mr Schneider.

Find out more

  • Listen to the full report on Money Box on BBC Radio 4

A bad review or negative comment can be retweeted by millions, and companies are often keen to defuse customer anger very quickly in a public space such as Twitter. If it is done cleverly, it can even work in a company's favour.

"I remember there was a time where there was an outage on O2 on the network and they were getting a hell of a lot of bad press," says Mr Schneider. "People were tweeting very aggressively at the O2 account and about O2 - it was trending.

"They happened to have a very skilful, self-deprecating, humorous person on their Twitter feed at that time who dealt with the abuse in a very amusing way."

Mr Schneider says it was interesting to see a wave of criticism turn to positive comments from the customers.

David Schneider Social media expert David Schneider says complaining via Twitter is more effective than calling a company

When a complaint is treated with a personal touch, it can even go viral on Twitter. For instance one Argos customer service representative chose to reply to customer Immy "Badman" Bugti's complaint using the same street style he had used in his tweet.

A shortened version of the messages read: "@Argos_online: Yo, wen you gettin' da ps4 tings in moss side? Ain't waitin' no more."

"@BadManBugti: Safe Badman. We gettin' sum more PS4 tings in wivin da next week, y'get me."

The company response from Argos was retweeted over 1,500 times within the space of a few hours.

How to complain on Twitter

  • Use the company's Twitter handle and company name within your tweet to ensure the message can be seen by as many people as possible
  • Make the tweet short and to the point and try to sum everything up in one message
  • Do not be rude
  • If you do not get a response point this out in your follow-up tweet
  • Ask friends, family or someone with a lot of Twitter followers to retweet your complaint to get more attention
  • Do not give away any personal information

Jo Causon, chief executive of the Institute of Customer Service, says consumers are becoming much more savvy and expect organisations to relate to them as real life human beings and not simply transactions any more.

"One of the key things that we're seeing in the changing world we're all living in is that we want to have better dialogue, not just monologue, with our organisations," says Ms Causon.

According to a poll of 2,000 people by the communications agency Fishburn Hedges and Echo Research in April 2012, 36% of people had used a social media platform to contact a big company and 65% said it was a better way than call centres to get in touch with companies.

It was not just confined to the young either, with 27% of people aged over 55 having used social media to complain.

Ms Causon expects complaints via Twitter to only increase in popularity with the growth of social media.

"A lot of us at the moment are not complaining necessarily through Twitter, but as we progress, it certainly is a medium of choice, and organisations will need to be able to respond appropriately," says Ms Causon.

Close up on a finger about to press the Twitter icon on a mobile phone Tweeting an image along with your complaint can help get your grievance noticed

With almost 15,000 complaints a day about financial services in 2013, according to complaints data from the Financial Conduct Authority, Hannah Moore from BBC Radio 4's Money Box programme monitored the Twitter feeds of eight of the major banks for a working day and found problems were not necessarily resolved on Twitter, but it did help push requests to the front of the queue.

"When customers complained about hanging on premium rate phonelines, [some] staff promised to call them instead, and if you're confused about which department you need to get in touch with, Twitter's really helpful," she says.

"The best banks provided the correct phone numbers, forms and web links within minutes - again saving you time on an 0845 number."

According to Ms Causon it's important for the consumer to be responsible about choosing the right channel for their complaint too.

"A banking problem in itself doesn't necessarily lend itself to a very public place like Twitter, so I think it's about the nature of the problem and what you're looking to have resolved."

If Twitter is making it easier to complain, it also makes it easier for consumers to give positive feedback to companies too, so there is no danger we will turn into a nation of whingers.

Listen to the full report on Money Box on BBC Radio 4. Or catch up on BBC iPlayer.

More on This Story

Related Stories

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories

RSS

BBC Business Live

  1.  
    GLENCORE BUYBACK 08:39:

    Commodity trader and miner Glencore has said it will buy back $1bn of shares over the next six months. The company also reported an 8% rise in first half earnings to $6.5bn (£3.9bn), beating analysts' estimates.

     
  2.  
    MARKET UPDATE 08:24:

    After two days of strong gains, the main European stock markets have inched lower in early trade.

    • The FTSE 100 is down 11.11 points at 6,768.20
    • Germany's Dax index is 14.86 points lower at 9,319.42
    • In France, the Cac 40 is down 9.57 points at 4,244.88
     
  3.  
    ARGENTINA DEBT 08:20:
    Cristina Fernandez

    President Cristina Fernandez has proposed laws that will push bondholders to swap defaulted debt for new bonds governed by Argentine law, to try to avoid a US ruling that prevented her government from paying some creditors. Argentina entered default last month after a New York court blocked an interest payment of $539m owed to holders of bonds issued under US laws that was restructured after the country's record 2002 default.

     
  4.  
    INTEREST RATES 08:02: BBC Radio 4

    The Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) has voted unanimously to hold rates at 0.5% for the past three years. Peter Warburton, who sits on a 'shadow' MPC, organised by the Institute for Economic Affairs, tells the Today programme that it looks like the consensus is beginning to crumble, although the latest MPC minutes could still show a 9-0 vote in August.

     
  5.  
    Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Diego Hernández to become Chief Executive Officer of FTSE100 miner Antofagasta"

     
  6.  
    HEINEKEN RESULTS 07:35:
    beer

    Heineken beat analysts' forecasts for its first-half results, although along with Carlsberg it said it sold less in Russia. The Central and Eastern Europe business was hit by bad weather and floods. Operating profit before one-off items rose 9.6% in the first six months of the year to 1.45bn euros ($1.93bn; £1.16bn),

     
  7.  
    CARLSBERG RESULTS 07:23:
    beer

    Danish brewer Carlsberg has said annual profits will drop because of western relations with Russia. The country generates 35% of operating profit but Russia could enter recession this year. "The overall performance in the second quarter looks fine, but they are downgrading their guidance due to the macroeconomic uncertainty in the Eastern European region. So it is a mixed bag," analyst Morten Imsgard from Sydbank said.

     
  8.  
    BALFOUR BEATTY 07:18:

    Balfour Balfour said it rejected Carillion's latest offer because it failed to address "two key concerns". It said there were "considerable risks" associated with the proposed business plan. It also objected to Carillion's intention to halt the planned sale of Balfour's Parsons Brinckerhoff business in the US, "at a point when it is reaching a successful conclusion".

     
  9.  
    BALFOUR BEATTY 07:08:
    Balfour Beatty worker

    Balfour Beatty has rejected the latest takeover bid from rival Carillion. The offer was sweetened on Tuesday for the third time, valuing Balfour at more than £2bn. But Balfour said the proposal was "not in the best interests" of its shareholders.

     
  10.  
    BHP BILLITON 06:57: BBC Radio 4
    BHP Billiton logo

    On Tuesday, mining giant BHP Billiton announced plans to spin-off billions of dollars worth of assets into a new company. Elaine Coverley, head of equity research at Brewin Dolphin, told the Today programme that it's a sign that shareholders in the sector are demanding more discipline from management and seeking better dividends.

     
  11.  
    STANDARD CHARTERED 06:44: Radio 5 live
    Standard Chartered

    Elaine Coverley, head of equity research at Brewin Dolphin is on Wake Up to Money, this time talking about Standard Chartered. Standard Chartered has agreed to pay $300m (£180m) to New York's top banking regulator for failing to improve its money laundering controls. "It's a blow," she says. "In the past the management were very well respected."

     
  12.  
    JAPAN EXPORTS 06:31:
    Tokyo port

    Japan's exports grew in July for the first time in three months, figures have shown. Exports were up 3.9% from a year ago thanks to higher shipments of cars and electric machinery. However, imports rose by 2.3%, largely due to purchases of oil and gas. This meant the trade deficit came in at a larger-than-expected 964.0bn yen ($9.4bn; £5.6bn) for the month.

     
  13.  
    BALFOUR MERGER 06:16: Radio 5 live

    Elaine Coverley, head of equity research at Brewin Dolphin is on Wake Up to Money. Carillion is back with improved terms to buy Balfour Beatty. "It is getting more hostile," she says. Balfour Beatty shareholders "need to petition the board to look at this offer much more closely", she says.

     
  14.  
    INTEREST RATES 06:10: Radio 5 live
    Bank of England

    A rise in interest rates is "long overdue", economist Peter Warburton tells Wake Up to Money. The minutes from August's meeting of the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee are out later and could show some members favoured a rate rise. Mr Warburton thinks several economic indicators suggest rates should already have gone up.

     
  15.  
    PALLADIUM PRICES 06:02: Radio 5 live

    Jim Slade, a director of European Exhaust & Catalyst, is on Wake Up to Money talking about palladium, which is used in catalytic converters. The price of palladium has risen by 25% this year. "There's a lot of debate about Russia and whether they have a huge stockpile or whether it's depleted," he says.

     
  16.  
    06:00: Nick Edser, Business reporter

    Good morning. You can email us at bizlivepage@bbc.co.uk and tweet us at @bbcbusiness.

     
  17.  
    06:00: Howard Mustoe Business reporter

    Hello. Today we can look forward to minutes from the Bank of England's Monetary Policy Committee, plus company results and analysis. Stay tuned.

     

Features

From BBC Capital

Programmes

  • Tourists wearing bikinis in MajorcaThe Travel Show Watch

    Why wearing a bikini could land you with a fine on the Spanish island of Majorca

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.