/ Shopping, Technology

Companies should treat Facebook complaints like any other

Person logging into Facebook

A report out this week looked at response times from companies when you complain about them on their Facebook wall. The times ranged from less than one hour to… never. Why do some companies get it so wrong?

I wouldn’t expect to queue for 24 hours at a customer service till in a shop, but if I email a company I’m happy for them to take a couple of days to respond.

Conversely, if I wrote them a letter, I wouldn’t expect them to phone me the next day and resolve my complaint within five minutes.

Gold stars for Next and Asos

At Which? we love seeing companies dealing quickly and efficiently with complaints – it’s part of their job. So when I saw a report this week that praised Next and Asos for speedy responses to customer complaints on Facebook, I was delighted.

They both averaged response times of less than an hour – around the time I’d expect a company to deal with a complaint via social media.

This shows that both companies obviously pay attention to what customers are saying, and crucially, appreciate that this particular medium is speedier than traditional letters or emails.

Amazon snoozes & loses

But the bad news? Some companies just aren’t doing it at all. Over the course of the study (carried out by a web company called ‘Conversocial’), Amazon did not respond to a single complaint or query from a customer. What makes it worse is that they weren’t on holiday – they were still posting lots of marketing messages and special deals which these frustrated customers will have seen.

It’s the equivalent of a supermarket assistant ignoring you queuing at the tills for a refund, while shouting ‘Special deals! Buy one get one free!’ at the other customers in the shop. Bad move.

If something’s worth doing…

If I tweet at one of my friends asking them for advice or telling them a joke, I don’t expect to wait three days for a response (unless it’s a particularly awful joke). Likewise if I tweet at a company about their customer service I’d expect them to respond within a reasonable time – one to two hours during office hours, at most.

I know many people don’t like to use social networks, and companies may only grudgingly have a presence on these sites, but surely they realise that if they have it, they should use it properly. And companies like Amazon, whose main business is online, should be leading the way in this kind of customer service, not lagging behind.

Not responding promptly to tweets or Facebook messages is like having a customer service phone line that goes straight to answerphone. The messages playing over and over again to deaf ears – never listened to, and never resolved.

It would be like having a complaints email address that goes to the intern who left two years ago. Or a postal address that redirects letters straight to your recycling bin.

Companies need to wake up to the fact that people want to contact them via social media, and that these complaints are just as important as any other. After all, the customer’s problem is the same regardless of how it comes to their attention. Don’t shoot the messenger, I say.


No way. You can contact companies by phone, by letter and by email (although many use Web-based forms, making it difficult to keep a copy). Why should we expect them to monitor Facebook?

Leave Facebook et al. out of this.


I know you’re not a fan of things like Facebook, wavechange, but like it or not these are channels which companies use to market to us, sell to us, talk to us etc. If companies are using these channels to start a conversation with us, it makes sense that they should also listen to us on these channels when we have something to say.

After all, if a company cold-called me to sell me, say, a new phone contract, I’d expect to then be able to call them using my phone if I needed to raise an issue with them. I wouldn’t accept a company that said “no, we’ll only listen to you if you write a letter.” Why should social media be any different?

You might not like the medium, but millions upon millions of people use it, and it’s growing. I expect people said the same about email when it first came in: “Why should a company reply to my email when I can just call them?” but I think if it’s a channel that they’re using to market to us, it should be a channel where we can respond.


Let’s agree to differ on this Nikki. Which? Conversation introduced me to some of the problems with Facebook and I have learned more since then. It all seems horribly unprofessional and unsuitable for serious use. If a company wants to use it that’s fine, but why expect it to?

I don’t remember much criticism about email, at least after its use became widespread in the commercial world.

Joshua March says:
29 November 2011

Completely agree with Nikki on this wavechange (although should put in a big disclaimer – I’m co-founder and CEO of Conversocial which produced the report). I have no problem with a company who chooses not to be on Facebook at all – fine. The issue is when companies put themselves onto Facebook, say ‘hey we’re here’, expect customers to listen to them when they send out sales promotions – but then ignore the customers when they speak back. We weren’t looking whether companies were just listening to public complaints made on Facebook (e.g. if you made a status update to your friends); only if the company had set up their own fan page, and a customer had written directly to the company on that page.


Perhaps Facebook could be used to help consumers and companies understand the Sale of Goods Act, particularly with respect of items more than a year old. If Facebook has the power to promote understanding of consumers’ rights and responsibilities then I might have some respect for it.


Good point, wavechange – I think that one of the great things about these mediums is that they give us a channel to share info about things like consumer rights. Which? has a facebook page (www.facebook.co.uk/whichaction) which we use to inform people about our campaigning but also to highlight people’s rights in certain situations, for instance during the snow disruption to airports we gave updates on facebook and twitter (as well as here and on our website, of course) about people’s rights if their flight was delayed/cancelled etc – it’s a great way to make sure that more people know what they are able to do if they’re stuck in a tricky situation.

Sale of Goods act is a great example – we do update a lot on your rights around buying things/returning faulty goods, etc – especially around the Christmas period when people are doing more shopping!


Thanks for this Nikki. I can see that Facebook could be a way of getting the attention of a lot more people. If retailers realise that their customers are better aware of their rights it might make them face up to their responsibilities. Equally, it is important for disgruntled customers to realise that the retailers have rights too. Facebook could also be useful for those who have a common problem to make their views known. Perhaps Orange increasing their prices for those on phone contracts, which has been a popular topic on Which? Conversation, would be ideal for complaints via the Orange Facebook site (if it exists).

When I hear the term ‘complaints’ I usually think of rather more serious problems involving individual problems, and I doubt that Facebook could help here. I prefer email but even reputable organisations are now using Web-based forms for communication. That means that it is not easy to keep a copy of communication. Anyway, that’s another problem.

Your link is wrong and it should be: http://www.facebook.com/whichaction

Paul@Ecotricity says:
28 November 2011

We try to keep on top of ’emerging channels’ 🙂

Facebook could do a lot more to help businesses adopt it as a serious support channel however.

Like enable notifications for comments for pages. I don’t want an email every time I get a Farmville invite, but I do want an email every time someone comments on our Facebook page,

And while I’m on that topic – allowing people to get email notifications on an address other than the one they use to access Facebook would be nice. At the moment all Facebook comms go to my personal email address, which I don’t check when I’m at work! Being able to use another email address would allow us to use a distribution list that would alert multiple people & integrate it into our normal (& excellent) enquiry/complaints process…

Also – I’m sad enough to check my work twitter/facebook streams after hours & at weekends, but this is not part of my working hours – so I’m definitely in two minds about creating the expectation that brands should monitor social media 24/7 for complaints/enquiries 😉

Just thinking out loud…