/ 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.


Hi all,

Thanks for your comments, it’s really interesting to see how others go about making complaints to companies.

You’ve made some great points about how emails are great for documenting your conversations – something I really agree with. The reason I tend to turn to social media first is because a lot of companies have a continual presence on social networks and are always sending out messages, whether that be promotional or responses. Therefore, if I send them a tweet and ten minutes later see they send a general message out about one of their new products, I feel pretty confident that someone will have read it as they’re active at that point in time – plus it’s the instant conversation that I’m after.

Where as with email, there’s no way for me to tell whether anyone’s read it, or the likelihood of them doing so anytime soon.

Have you had satisfactory responses when using email correspondence? Or do you find social media is better for an instant response?


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.