When I was in primary school (many, many years ago), I remember being taught how to write a formal letter of complaint in an English lesson. Don’t ask me why, but I seem to also remember it being about the heels breaking on stilettos that I had purchased. I’m hoping at this point we weren’t given a choice as to what to write about.
That lesson has kind of become obsolete. The humble letter seems to be on the slow decline – it is simply too old fashioned to survive in our mystical age of online communications.
These days, complaints are all made online. Even the email is middle aged, and getting too old to play football with the kids. There comes a time when youth is invigorated and comes to the forefront – social media is that youth, and it has taken to the stage to hog all the limelight.
If I want to make a complaint to a company, I take it straight to Twitter. A little sad, and perhaps an indictment of my social life, but it seems the most logical to me. I can see the complaint I’ve made (so I know they have received it) and it’s a more accessible way of beginning what will hopefully be a productive conversation.
However (and this is a very big, and deliberately pronounced however, followed by a pause for effect), some companies still don’t know how to deal with these complaints. Social media can be a fickle business at time, particularly Twitter where anyone can see the tweets between yourself and a brand.
The so-called ‘standard response’ we always seem to get annoys me. It seems to me though, that this is more a fear of dealing with the complaint in the wrong way rather than a lack of care. Making a problem worse on a public platform has a much worse effect than making someone angry on the phone.
Some companies do get it right though – I recently posted, not a complaint, but negative feedback to a large supermarket about their branded tablet, which keeps crashing after about a week since I bought it.
I made the comment on a Saturday morning, and received the response on…yep, Saturday morning. Not only that, the response was the perfect example of what customer service should be:
Me: Less than impressed with my tablet now, it keeps crashing :(
Them: Aaw no, so soon? I’m so sorry. I can assure you this is not standard. Have you spoken to our experts? 0800 323 4060
I had a less productive encounter with another brand at the weekend (I complain a lot, can you tell?) Despite live tweeting, they completely ignored my complaint. It was related to an account, so it was something I was keen to resolve quickly, but I received no word. It was only after I posted a tweet about the fantastic customer service of one of their competitors that I received any kind of response, and even then it wasn’t helpful in the slightest.
Brands treat social media differently. Some fear it, and fail. Others embrace it, and succeed. Fearing what is inevitably going to be the way forward for communications to customer clientele is going to hold back many brands. It is nothing short of essential that it be approached with a risk tolerant attitude. Above all, a brand should never, ever ignore a complaint made by a customer, unless they have good enough reason, which is rare.
Online customer service is everything to a company now. It is a foundation they should build everything upon. Some get it right, some get it wrong, but most worryingly, some don’t even try, and they are the ones who will not succeed on social media.
By Craig Butler