/ Technology

Do you listen to complaints on social networking sites?

A social media dislike button

Complaining used to mean writing a letter or calling a company. But with millions of consumers now using Twitter or Facebook, social media is becoming a popular way to complain about poor customer service.

Research from online customer helpdesk Sirportly has found that more than half of customers under the age of 35 take to social media to complain about bad service. Across all ages, just over a third of customers complain on social platforms.

And with the popularity of online shopping growing every day, it makes sense that more of us try and resolve a customer service problem where we started – online.

A complaint in 140 characters

Contacting a company via social media can be an effective way of getting a direct response, as I’ve found in the past. However, sometimes your queries can go unanswered, which doesn’t give a good impression to unhappy customers. According to research from a different helpdesk, Conversocial, almost nine in 10 of us are less likely to buy from companies who ignore complaints on social media.

I once tweeted at high street retailer River Island about a pair of jeggings that were faulty. I asked if it had another size I could replace them with, but I failed to get a response. Not only did that leave me frustrated, but it also gave me the impression that the company wasn’t too fussed about my problem.

By contrast, when I tweeted Next about a delayed sofa delivery, it was quick to respond, apologised and offered to resolve the issue.

Now you might think it’s a trivial matter, but taking the time to reply and deal with my problem definitely put Next in my good books.

The impact of an unanswered complaint

I like to think that companies take complaints via social media seriously, but how do other shoppers feel about them?

If I were to spot several complaints on Facebook about a certain company, I’m not sure whether I’d actually be put off from using them, especially if they offered something very specific I wanted. I might just try my luck and hope that my experience would be better than those reported online.

Have you ever made a complaint via social media? Was it answered? If you saw others complaining about a company on Facebook and Twitter, would it put you off purchasing products from them?

Morag says:
16 May 2013

Perfect timing. I’ve just tweeted about an electrician who discriminated against us as a family with special needs/disabilities. I posted on my FB wall asking for a recommendation for a more open minded electrician and was given contact details for two, one of which is coming first thing tomorrow morning. Much better customer service. I have made complaints and compliments both direct and indirectly using social media and find it works very well in getting the issue resolved.

I would consider carefully dealing with any company or retailer where there were a large number of complaints via social media and other internet forums in the same way that I would if there were many good reports about them.

Many companies make it difficult to contact them on line via e-mail or direct messaging services preferring to put you off by offering premium rate telephone “support/customer service”! I have tackled many of these companies via facebook and twitter and so far have received beneficial responses and treatment. In such a public forum invariably these companies want to appear to be doing the right thing.

I really don’t understand Twitter and did not try to when I realised I could only post messages of 140 characters or less. After hearing how useful social media is for lodging complaints, I posted a complaint on the M&S page and waited to see what would happen. My complaint was not visible, just their posts to their adoring public. So nobody else could see my complaint, I presume. I received a reply the next day, but there was no sign of my tweet on the M&S page, only on my page. Is this the way it’s supposed to work?

I only use Facebook for personal contacts and entertainment and am not sure if I wish to add my complaints to this. I find phone contact is the best as you can respond to whatever is said straight away. Next I would add email but only if you can email the company direct. My M&S complaint started with an email form on their website, they replied to me by email but it was a ‘do not reply’ email address, I was supposed to go back to their web site email form, enter all my details again and reply to the proper email via this form. I got fed up with this after about 4 attempts as from my viewpoint there was no continuity. That is why I tried Twitter. Guess what, the reply referred me to thei website. I am going to Debenhams tomorrow and giving M&S a miss.

Oh come on! Whats wrong with emailing the customer services department. If you tweet your complaint and it doesn’t get picked up then I think you only have yourself to blame. I always try and give every company a chance to deal with the issue in a private forum and directly . Tweeting is very public and not direct. If you have an issue tell them , let them resolve it . If they continue to ignore you then tweet your dissatisfaction but I find it rude to do it in a public forum first.

Many companies just make it too difficult to interact with them easily in a way that allows you to properly document what was stated. I would prefer a direct messaging system or e-mail facility where a prompt reply is received. Even the John Lewis Partnership warns that a reply could take up to four working days due to all those customers contacting them! Many companies want you to speak to them via a premium rate phone line as it generates an income for them (to run the “customer service” they would say) but you lose as no record then exists. I prefer the old fashioned way (a letter to the company) but using modern technology to document both sides. Companies/retailers therefore only have themselves to blame if customers choose to interact via social media as the most appropriate (or only) way to document a conversation. Quite frankly a retailer using social media for marketing purposes can benefit from showing publicly how promptly and efficiently they can deal with issues/complaints.

I do not use social media websites and have no desire to. I wish companies would not assume everyone uses them and post information on them rather than on their websites.

I doubt if it matters that much how you complain. A company that wants to ignore you will do so however you do it. The main thing is to be firm but polite if you want a result.

It is always better to have a copy of a written letter whether it be by snail mail or email.

You also do not need social media to find out how good or bad a company is. A bad company will have plenty of comments on the internet.

I’ve started a complaint towards T-Mobile on Twitter regarding an admin charge that I don’t think is justified. It took them about 24 hours to respond, and that was just to ask me to follow and PM them. I did and PM’ed some personal information (phone number), but that’s now about 30 hours ago and I haven’t heard back from them again. It’s a slow process, but they don’t really offer any alternatives (especially not when you’re not a customer, and you would have to _pay_ for being on hold on their support line.

I have just put a comment on Google+ warning everyone about o2 mis-describing their network coverage on their network checker service (Google+ makes good use of hashtags, which I hope will ensure my comment is read by many).

The o2 network checker indicates that I should expect a strong 3G network coverage across the whole of my area (Christchurch, Dorset) but in many areas including my home the signal strength is now poor or non-existent. A quick call (if you can get a signal) to our local o2 shop in the high street will confirm that they are located in a blackspot but this is not indicated.

Ironically, I moved to o2 some years ago because their service was the best in the area but for whatever reason the service is now far below satisfactory.

As network coverage is going to be the main consideration when choosing a network, my main objective is to warn others that o2 are lying with regard to their network coverage and to ignore the network checker as you will be deceived. A response from o2 would be a bonus but I doubt it would change anything!

wev says:
4 June 2013

Have you told Trading Standards or the Advertising Standards Authority?

I haven’t reported to either yet but I would be interested to know if a reduction in network coverage whilst during the contract period falls under trading standards “Merchantable quality and fit for purpose” rules? E.g: is this grounds in itself to request release from an on-going contract?

Perhaps Which? could advise.

I had a very satisfactory email correspondence with Microsoft ending in a sizeable refund. The correspondence started with a phone call to the UK office, continued with emails to the Romanian office and ending with yet more emails to the US escalations department. I was given a reference number on the first call and this was used throughout. I only had to quote this number and the history was revealed. I tried the US number and was answered by someone in El Salvador and he was able to update me on my complaint. They replied to all my messages promptly and sent emails to advise me of progress without prompting. I was very impressed with their customer service.

1. Please tackle the customer services that reply from a ‘do not reply’ email address.to a complaint made on a website form because that is the only option. You have then no alternative but to reply via the form, thus losing the history of the correspondence. This suits the company as many complainants give up at the first hurdle because they do not wish to keep repeating the details of the complaint.

2. If I post a complaint on Twitter only I and the company are aware of the complaint. I am not aware if other customers are complaining about the same issue.

3. I tweeted a query to Panasonic two days ago about the large footprint of their slimline microwave ovens – a repy is still awaited. I can’t see an email address on their website to try.

It is ironic that companies renowned for their good customer service are the leaders in using ‘do not reply’ email addresses in their replies to complaints.

Try: customer.care@panasonic.co.uk

Best of luck.

Maybe we should Panasonic and all the other companies that want us to use their rotten Web-based forms and ask them to get their act together. I’m not normally so rude but having to keep screen captures for my records and being unable to attach images showing problems demonstrates lack of commitment towards customers.

After I post about a problem with a company in a consumer forum, it’s great to see how many tens of thousands of views the thread gets. It gives me great satisfaction that my effort to write it was so small compared to the large audience and that I have successfully embarrassed the errant company. Companies need to treat customers better and remember that if they don’t get things right, lots of people will find out and they will lose potential customers.

That is what I expected Twitter to be like but was very disappointed with the format.

Apart from Which? where people do not seem to name and shame, what other consumer forum do you post on. It would be terrific if all large companies had a forum style platform where customers could exchange views and register complaints.

I have used the Talk Talk forum very successfully and received a new router without even talking to their call centre. It probably takes longer but it is far less stressful.

The busiest consumer forum I know of is http://forums.moneysavingexpert.com. Despite its name, it has evolved into a general consumer forum rather than being specifically about saving money. Post a consumer problem there, and you will often see that thousands or tens of thousands of people have read your thread.

I sometimes post on MSE but not about complaints. I check out what is being discussed and if I have a view on the subject I get involved in the discussion – same as Which?. I had a problem with my car and posted details on the motoring discussion, received advise from many which I followed and was able to sort it out myself – a truly money saving forum. When I receive the weekly email, I just have to check the Moral Dilemma and I’m afraid I sometimes comment eventhough I believe many are made up.

wev says:
3 June 2013

Some companies won’t do anything even if you complain on a forum. If you look at the BT broadband forum, it’s got a massive thread on emails being hacked. I don’t think there’s been an employee admitting it was down to poor security and offering compensation.

Exasperated by Samsung Mobile UK – Extremely poor customer service at ALL levels including CEO level. Complaint originally as a result of misconduct and multiple failings by Samsung UK Mobile initially. Has been going on since March 2013. Twitter Samsung UK Mobile have ignored my tweets/concern, they were not willing to assist. Have tweeted since to no avail. They appear to have no concern over bad publicity either.

Customer services useless, so escalated matter (with great difficulty as Samsung staff totally unhelpful) to Samsung Exec office. Received very poor service from them too. Disgusted in their excuses and total lack of duty of care to a customer. Have significant correspondence in writing/emails to confirm their ignorance and total lack of concern. They have ignored my comments and where I have asked for responses, they have continued to ignore and my concerns remain unanswered. Have contacted BBC Watchdog and I await their response. I am happy to forward all written correspondence to the media.,

Have made attempts to email Simon Stanford- Head of Mobile UK – also to no avail. Unfortunately the unprofessional Exec office tell me that they access Mr Standford’s inbox. Have left messages for his PA too – Katie Bennett – also no response received.

Have emailed Mr Andy Griffiths – Samsung UK VP – and his PA Annette Wheeler – no response either.

I have gone to the absolute top! to no avail. The original crux of the matter remains, that Samsung failed to report full faults with my new handset and it was returned faulty.

Not only is the crux of the matter an issue, more than that it is the appalling way that Samsung UK Mobile have dealt with this matter, failed to address my concerns, respond to my requests, or show any respect to a customer.

To bring closure to the matter I have requested that in recognition of their misconduct and ongoing failings, they supply me with a new Galaxy S2 (which is fair and reasonable due to the launch of the S4). They have refused and are suggesting a replacement only.

It’s a disgrace that all they seem to care about is promoting their products and have no regard whatsoever to a customer complaint that has arisen as a result of Samsung’s failings in the first place!

I see that Which? is now busy on Twitter and tweeters are having questions answered promptly which does not happen when I use the contact Which? email form or raise a question in Conversation. Are the tweeters paying Which membership fees?

Sorry Figgerty! We try our best to answer everyone swiftly wherever they get in touch with us. If you have made a comment with a question to us and we haven’t replied, please Report the comment to alert it to us. Apologies again.

Patrick, your system for communication through your email form means I can not keep a copy of the communication sent. Although I copied the original unedited version before I started to edit it. I am furious that someone on Twitter can have an instant response without paying a membership fee, whilst I have waited for 10 days for a reply to an email I sent directly to Which? through the system of communication you wish members to use. I have now sent the long unedited version of the message, marked for your attention. For some reason it accepted the long version today. I will also ‘report the comment’ where I raised the question first.

Thanks for your attention Patrick.