/ Technology

You’d be a twit not to use Twitter

Woman and blackboard covered in the word 'Tweet'

I may be a bit behind the times, but I’m beginning to find Twitter really useful for communicating with businesses and deciding where to spend my money. In fact, it’s fast becoming my most essential consumer tool.

It all started when I bought a bike online a couple of months ago. This turned out to be a pretty bad idea as I started having problems with it almost immediately.

I contacted the company’s customer service department, but after a few emails (calls weren’t an option), which left me feeling like I wasn’t getting anywhere, I decided to call them out on Twitter.

I used Twitter’s search function to find people mentioning the company and found a girl who’d tweeted asking if anyone had used the company. I responded, telling her about my negative experience.

The company clearly keeps an eye on what people are saying about them because within 24 hours they responded, asking for my email address. I told them I was sick of emailing them and sent my phone number instead – shortly after they called and we sorted out the problem.

Which? tweets for the greater good

Here at Which? we regularly use Twitter to help out consumers who are having trouble with companies. For example, we got Groupon to take down a misleading ad for Fatboy beanbags and offer refunds to those who had signed up for the deal.

Another of our followers tweeted to say that Envirofone – a phone recycling company – hadn’t sent him £200 for an iPhone he’d mailed them. After challenging the company on Twitter to send him the money he was owed, Envirofone finally followed through later that day.

Positive tweeting is useful too

But for me, Twitter isn’t just about venting or telling people about my negative experiences (although typing a 140-character rant does have a strangely therapeutic effect on me). It’s also about giving praise to help promote companies doing good things. If I have a good experience at a restaurant, for example, then I like to tweet about it so others can enjoy it.

When the people I follow on Twitter rant or rave about a business, I also take note; some of my decisions to go to shops and traders are now influenced by what I read on Twitter. And I’ve even started asking my followers to share their experiences of businesses or services which I’m considering using.

Clearly you need to take some tweets about traders with a pinch of salt (mistakes happen!) and sometimes you won’t even find any information about a business. Generally though, using Twitter has made me feel more empowered as a consumer. Do you feel the same or is it a waste of time in your mind?

Has Aniela convinced you to be a more active Tweeter? If so, make sure you follow Which Conversation’s Twitter feed, @WhichConvo to keep up with all the latest consumer-related stories.


I would rather use Twitter than Facebook, but I will carry on without either for the time being, thanks.

Oxford Online defines a twit as a silly or foolish person.

Wish you’d not use such a disparaging term.
( we ‘re not in this altogether, you know,
and out of choice)

Hi there, sorry if it’s caused offence Argonaut, it was only meant in a very lighthearted way! As Aniela’s written her post in a very personal tone we thought it would be clear that it’s tongue-in-cheek.

Same as your post, with me also.
Only last week I forced asda to remove a “price drop” claim from their website, after reading it on twitter, it took 24 hours and 3 tweets, they posted a link to the blog but then forgot which that they had claimed it!
Then as if by magic, the product vanished from their advertised blog post.
Another thing I find useful is when companies/regulators/industry bodies DON’T reply or request only to deal with issues via private message, email or phone.
It speaks volumes, like the energy price rises via british gas.
The energy saving trust have no comment to make despite repeatedly asking them about it on twitter, a quick check reveals a vested interest, they are funded in part by centrica!

I find twitter much more proactive than other social media, ideal for pinning down sharp practices, or if the company will not answer, making it known to others so they don’t suffer the same.

Perry Williams says:
9 January 2012

I agree that Twitter can definitely be a tool to name & shame those who make our blood boil with poor products/customer service …. and also praise those that help to make our day!

I take strangers’ tweets with a grain of salt, however, as one can never know how authentic they are. It’s easy to imagine more unscrupulous businesses use “astroturfing” in an attempt to game their online social presence.

Sophie Gilbert says:
10 January 2012

I find there is no difference between some tweets and witterings, or some twitter users and twits (you should see what my work produces…), but I find this convo interesting. There just may be a real use for Twitter? One worry still remains, however, one of security. I gave up on Facebook for this reason (among others). Is Twitter different, and if so, how?

Good question, Sophie. I’m not sure if you’re talking about privacy or security – facebook’s privacy is notoriously difficult to navigate, and I have given up on trying to sort out my privacy settings. Twitter, on the other hand, is reasonably straightforward – you can either protect your tweets (so that they can only be seen by your followers) or have them open (so that they can be seen by everyone). There’s also the option with Twitter of being anonymous (or just having a ‘stage name’ as it were).

I’m a bit biased as I generally prefer twitter to facebook, but I can understand why people would be unsure about using social networks – ultimately when you put something on the internet you give up the possibility that the information will remain private.

Sophie Gilbert says:
11 January 2012

Thanks, Nikki. I’m thinking for example of all the various conversations there have been on this very blog, “Twitter, Facebook and the law – how legal is your social life?”, “Privacy fatigue hits Facebook. Have you updated your settings?”, “Is Facebook leaving the door open for burglars?”, etc. I just wonder if Twitter is really much better or if I should remain content to use Which Conversation, Trip Advisor, the List and so on. I will give this serious consideration thanks to this particular convo.

Not too many months ago I found a hair in my box of Sushi from a leading high street retailer. I took a picture and tweeted it at them. They tweeted back to apologise and told me who to write to. I wrote to their complaints department, stating that they could view the image on twitter. A week later I received a written reply apologising for the incident and a £15 gift voucher to compensate for the inconvenience. It does show that companies do take contact via Twitter seriously and are very willing for consumers to use it alongside traditional modes of communication!

Are you sure it wasn’t your hair?

I’ve certainly found customer service on Twitter to be much better than traditional methods, such as email. In fact, when complaining to EDF it seemed like their Twitter team kicked their customer service in the backside and increased the importance of my complaint (perhaps pushing me ahead of people who weren’t tweeting publicly about a problem).

Scott – Why not just contact customer services directly, or the shop manager in this case? I think it is an insult to make a criticism in public without first giving a company the opportunity to reply.

If a company fails to respond to criticism within a reasonable time then it is fair enough to make others aware.

Food companies have to deal with people deliberately contaminating food with hair and other foreign objects, and public criticism could encourage more people to make dishonest claims.

Hi Wavechange,

On the day I bought it I’d already left the shop by the time I started eating it and it wasn’t near to where I live. It was a private message to the company but I also publicly tweeted my thanks to them for their help for all to see when the situation was resolved.

It was a genuine claim as the hair had been folded into the sushi (I pulled and it was twisted inside the piece of sushi). I don’t believe it would encourage others to deliberately contaminate food for financial gain and I didn’t ask for the compensation either – only that H&S procedures were rigorously enforced. It was a welcome gesture and most importantly the whole incident strengthened my support for the brand and I’d certainly go back to the store – their Sushi is after all quite good!

Humble apologies Scott. I had not realised that it is possible to do a private tweet. I am just one of the ‘twits’ who does not use it. 🙂

Deliberate contamination of food is a problem for companies, though it is not one that gets much publicity for obvious reasons.

Wavechange – not a problem at all! I didn’t provide enough detail in my original message!

I do hope that deliberate contamination isn’t too widespread as it may affect consumers with a genuine complaint. My point was really that companies are open to new modes of communication and you can get quick and polite customer service online. It would be great to see you on twitter as I’m sure you’d be good at it!

If not too off-topic, self and partner at Chinese restaurant were having
dim sum and having as well a fried rice noodle dish (char kway teow, if
you must know) when her sharp eyes noticed thread of hair…
manager promptly ordered a replacement and what’s more,
insisted on not charging for entire meal…. a bit of a rare experience
not replicated in other restaurants I’ve come across.

Thanks Scott. Maybe I will have a quick tweet sometime but you won’t get me to use Facebook.

We prefer you spending your time commenting here on Which? Conversation =) Though, yes, I agree with Scott – you’d like be a Twitter natural.

Marcus says:
11 January 2012

If I have a customer services problem I prefer to e-mail the chief executive directly.

You can find CEO e-mail addresses by going to your favourite search engine and typing:

companyname CEO e-mail

When seeing how companies are using Twitter, I always look to see whether their Twitter timeline is merely a newsfeed or whether they enter into dialogue with their customers – you can see this if the tweet begins with an “@” symbol. If there is no conversation going on then it’s not worth trying to get a response on Twitter.

Some good use Twitter examples:
@BTCare, @VodafoneUK, @BritishGas

Some bad Twitter use examples:
@LloydsTSBOnline – they try but do not seem empowered to fix problems
@DefenceHQ – no dialogue at all
@metpoliceuk – complete monologue
@DFID_UK – refuses to answer questions

Personally I’m a firm believer in using social media for customer service and twitter itself lends itself very well to companies for this purpose.

I think it’s great when you want a quick answer or are on the move – not everyone has the time to put pen to paper these days and it’s much easier to pop a quick tweet out where appropriate than to write a letter or make a phone call.

I also think from a company’s point of view, it’s much more efficient and cost effective. I can only imagine how much time is wasted in call centres giving out simple answers.

From a consumer point of view, I think airing your issues in public (where the company genuinely is at fault) will help you get a quicker response. Companies generally bend over backwards to make it look like they’ve been good and generous to you as it’s in their best interests.

Customer service via twitter can be great for businesses and consumers alike – it’s a great way to save money, get quick answers and, if used right by businesses, can work wonders for marketing.

Marcus says:
12 January 2012

“out of curiosity, have you received responses from many CEOs?”

Yes, many times. Often with a phone call too. Sensible CEOs see direct contact with customers as an opportunity rather than a threat.

When a CEO doesn’t respond directly he/she will delegate to the correct person in the organisation to sort out the matter. In this way it works better than “starting at the bottom” because an average customer services person does not understand the whole organisation and its people, whereas the CEO will…

I run a website here where I’ve collected e-mail addresses for CEOs: http://www.ceoemail.com/

I must be living in the Stone Age. I’ve never used Facebook and haven’t a clue as to what Twitter, LinkedIn and all sorts other fancy names are about.

And yet,I live a happy life. After all, once upon a time computers did not exist and people were happy!