When you’ve got beef with a company, what’s the best way to make a complaint? Here’s Helen, otherwise known as The Complaining Cow, debating whether it’s best to complain on social media, by email or over the phone.
The latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index figures from the Institute of Customer Service show that, in the three months to January 2016, 13% of customers had experienced a problem that required resolving. However, 25% of those with a problem didn’t report it. The types of problems encountered related to the quality or reliability of good/services (21%), late delivery (18%) and the availability of goods (12.5%).
So what’s the best way of complaining effectively about such problems? Some people will say they always complain by email, others by phone, and more recently others take to social media. But what’s actually the best?
Making a complaint on social media
Twitter is good for naming and shaming a company, particularly if you have a large following and/or it gets retweeted a lot. I know of many people who say they use Twitter to make complaints and always get results. But at some point, unless your tweet is very simple, you’ll be taking the conversation off your public Twitter feed and into longer direct messages or email.
Twitter may get you a quicker response, but in the end aren’t you actually resolving the matter elsewhere? So actually the resolution doesn’t come from Twitter – Twitter has just been helpful in finding the right contact.
Take Richard, for example, who took to Twitter to complain about Waitrose’s service. After this simple complaint, it was taken offline and he was sent a £15 voucher.
@LDNMorgan Sorry to read this Morgan, please can you DM the details so I can investigate? Thanks.
— Waitrose (@waitrose) March 2, 2016
Facebook allows for more conversation, but the drawback is that frequently one is talking to the social media team, which is usually not part of the customer services team. I have also heard stories of some companies deleting complaints from their page!
Complaining in writing on email
The benefits of making your complaints via email are vast. You have an evidence trail, you’re able to add attachments, you have time to think and you have time to rewrite!
You can bullet point issues and you don’t get interrupted either! Should you need to go further, you can use all of this written evidence. If you’re not happy with the responses you’ve received, you then escalate things higher up the corporate chain. You can then also use your evidence through a relevant Alternative Dispute Resolution scheme, trading body or small claims court if necessary.
Making a complaint over the phone
Using the phone is good for when you need quick action, such as getting your electricity back on! But it’s not so good for a complicated complaint or when you’re on your second call.
To be effective on the phone you need to ensure you have all your records with you, including notes of dates and times. You also have to be calm, which is not so easy for many of us. You can also forget stuff and lose objectivity if you lose your cool! Guidelines around whether you can record the calls and use them in court are unclear. If you are phoning a call centre there are a number of issues to contend with too.
To be effective for anything more than a quick complaint you will need to ensure that you’re prepared with everything you need – your legal rights, a list of evidence and possibly even preparing what you’re going to say. So, considering all of this, why don’t you just email it anyway?
Then again, if you’re lucky, calm, prepared and your complaint isn’t too complicated, perhaps the phone works for you?
I like to be sure of my facts and I have a bad memory, so I like taking my time to write an email so that I don’t forget anything. I can shout and swear at the computer screen while I do so, which wouldn’t be a good idea on the phone!
How do you prefer to complain – on social media, by email or over the phone?
This is a guest contribution by Helen Dewdney, who runs the blog The Complaining Cow and is author of How to Complain: The Essential Consumer Guide to Getting Refunds, Redress and Results. All opinions are Helen’s own, not necessarily those of Which?