How to Complain to Customer Service on Social Media—and Get Results

What do you do when the airline that’s supposed to be flying you to your vacation spot strands you instead? Or your car mechanic stalls on your repair and won’t tell you when you’ll be able to drive again? The traditional routes for consumer complaints have been the Better Business Bureau, the state District Attorney’s office, the local Department of Consumer Affairs or even the local TV station. Not any more. Those avenues are very 20th century and except for TV coverage, which is a crapshoot unless you have a telegenic problem, they rarely produce results.

What’s the most productive way to complain today? The internet, and especially social media. Companies don’t like bad publicity, and they get it through a megaphone when people start complaining on Twitter and Facebook.

I discovered the power of internet complaints when my trusty 2007 Ford Focus died twice on the road. I had it towed to the local Ford dealer, whose service rep reassured me on the phone that the dealership’s mechanics could fix it quickly. I had no idea of the runaround I was in for.

After three days of  repeated phone calls and reassurances that they were “working on” the problem, and “electrical problems can be very complicated,” I showed up at the dealership and found that my car was still sitting on the lot in the same place where the tow truck had left it. When I confronted him, the service rep, he gave me a runaround.  I asked to speak to the service manager who backed up his employee’s ludicrous explanation with a totally straight face.

Furious—and carless—I went home, accessed the dealership’s website and found the name and email address of the manager under the “Meet our Staff” link, along with the twitter handle for Ford: @Fordservice. I emailed the manager and tweeted Ford Service. The dealership manager called me the next morning, apologized profusely and offered to repair the car for free. @Fordservice also responded and offered to help, but by that time I’d already gotten satisfaction. Chalk one up for the power of the internet.

Social media customer service reps agree that Twitter is the fastest way to get results, whether you’re President Trump or Ms. Disgruntled Consumer. But Facebook and even email are also effective. Many companies have full-time social media employees whose sole job is to monitor Twitter and Facebook and respond as needed so that negative comments are not left hanging where everyone can see them.

My favorite Twitter success story is from a journalist friend who was stuck on an endless security line at the airport  and was about to miss her flight to her niece’s wedding.  She tweeted the airline and was immediately plucked off the line and hustled through security onto the plane.   It helped, of course that she has 12,000 followers, but customer service experts say you don’t need a lot of followers to get results from Twitter. Airlines are particularly responsive to Tweets.

Here are some tips on how to get action by using the internet to your advantage.

Tweet

If you don’t have a Twitter account, here’s a good reason to set one up. (Click here to read about how to get started on Twitter.) Alec Sears, a communications specialist at Frontier Business who helps oversee company issues through social media, says top brands are increasingly using Twitter to address concerns that their consumers might have. His tips:

Don’t be rude

If you are rude, your complaints are more likely to fall on deaf ears. “Our customer service reps on Twitter have a lot to handle, and they’re not as likely to spend time working with a ‘hater’ who’s more interested in being angry on social media than actually receiving help. (A recent Delta Airlines incident with Ann Coulter is a good example!)

Flesh out your Twitter handle

Sears says workers will often do a quick screen assessment of the consumer before responding. They want to know: Is the content on your Twitter handle well-rounded? Have you included a photo and some biographical details such as where you live and what your interests are? Have you ever tweeted before?  If it looks like you’re a real person with a real concern, you’re more likely to get help. If it looks like a fake account or if your account is filled with angry tweets of no value, a customer service rep is more likely to pass.

Be short and sweet

Remember that tweets are only 144 characters. My tweet to @Fordservice read: Getting terrible service from Pompano Ford in FL. Would like to talk to someone about it.

Tweet the right handle

Make sure you’re including the right handle, i.e. the customer care department, such as @Fordservice, not just @Ford. Look at all the handles for a company and pick the one that’s the most relevant to your complaint. (You can look on the company’s website, but a Twitter search is usually best. enter @ and the name of the company in the Twitter search bar, and select the result that indicates it’s a customer service handle.)

Post on Facebook

Alyssa Jeffers, digital marketing coordinator for LRG Marketing Communications who personally answers customer complaints, has some Facebook tips.

Write more than one message

Go directly to the company’s Facebook page. You’ll see a box labeled “write something on this page” and/or “leave a message.” Write your complaint in the box and also send a private message (look for the blue”Send a Message” button) if that option is also available—but don’t stop there.

Leave a Review

If the company has a review option on Facebook (some don’t) write a review. Facebook reviews can’t be removed by company staff.

Leave a comment

You should also leave a comment under any post that has comments, whether or not the post is related to your complaint. Your comment will be seen by the public, so the customer service department’s social media team is more likely to respond quickly.

Jeffers offers the example of a camera company’s customer who was furious after waiting on hold for over two hours. The customer went to the company’s Facebook page and commented about her experience under the post nearest the top of the page. Jeffers was on the company’s social media team—she replied to the comment quickly so that anyone else who came to the page could see that the company is responsive to its customers. Then she sent the customer a private message asking for information about the issue so she could  put her in touch with the right person. The customer was so happy with the response, she eventually went back to Facebook and commented about how great the company’s customer service is. It was a win-win for both the company and the customer.

Consider tweeting, too

That said, Jeffers recommends Twitter as the best avenue for reaching a company quickly. She follows her own advice. “I recently tweeted about a food delivery that didn’t go through, and the company got back to me in five minutes.”

She says you don’t need a ton of followers to get results on Twitter. “Businesses don’t want you talking about them in a bad way.”

Send an Email

For a local company or branch, visit the website and see if you can find the email address for the  manager, like I did, and email them. Look under Staff or About in the website’s top menu for the name of the head honcho.

If you are hitting a brick wall with a national brand, Google the name of the company plus “CEO,” and if you find an email address, write to that person. Nine times out of ten you will get a response. It’s worked for me. Comcast, which customers have voted #1 in bad customer service on the planet, responds to emails sent directly to the CEO. When I emailed Comcast’s CEO, I was sent the phone number of my local “customer service escalation manager” who was more responsive that the women in the company’s customer service department who had hung up on me numerous times.

If All Else Fails…

Some companies are going to give you the runaround no matter what you do.  I tweeted T-Mobile recently after frustrations with their Phillipines-based customer support. I got a series of clueless reps on Twitter who kept asking me the same questions over and over again. The experience was just like my phone customer service support experience with the company—it seemed as if I was being passed from one person to the next. I finally gave up and went to the local store, where I did get help from an actual human being.

Have you used the  internet to complain about bad customer service? Tell us about it in the comments section.

8 comments
  • Michael Griffin
    REPLY

    I have never used Twitter or social media before, but I think it’s time I learnt.

    I’m trying to help a friend who has had over £4000 stolen from his Post office account. We have a suspect, but to be absolutely sure we need the exact times of the withdrawals to be matched up with the CCTV. To identify the criminal.

    The police issued a crime number then closed the case without looking at any CCTV. I have been pursuing this for the last nine months, with the police the post office and the local MP. They have all just given me the run-around.

    I would like to know how to use twitter to get the post office to do the right thing. The right thing is:-

    1. What are the exact times of the seven withdrawals from the three banks involved?
    2. To match up the CCTV with the exact times, so that we can see the face of the criminal.

    If you can help in any way at all with suggestions or advice it would be very much appreciated.

    How would I get hold of the e-mail address of the head of the Post Office?

    Thank you

  • Daniel Fortman
    REPLY

    I have been a best buy Elite plus member for a few years now and I have bought about 366 items and a retired Police officer and disabled and this is the treatment I get Wow. From best buy plus always bought protection plans on everything like front loaders washer and dryer refrigerator dishwasher computers and other items. I have bought a rexing gps logger for my rexing dash cam. The GPS logger won’t stay connected to the dash cam. So I went to get a replacement gps logger, now mind you protection plan replacement plan. Customers service at best buy they couldn’t exchange or return it because I have returned or replaced other items. Then they gave a 1888 number to call to speak to someone who can’t hardly speak English telling me sorry there’

  • R Gibbons
    REPLY

    Complain letter sent to American Airlines:

    I have a reservation for today’s, (01-25) Flt AA1843 CLT to BOS. Record XXXXXX. However my business completed early and I arrived at CLT in time to board Flt AA1728 departing 4:39. There were plenty of seats available.

    I was not allowed to switch flights, go standby, use an upgrade anything other than buy a ticket for $276.

    That is outrageous. Julia the woman at the counter was polite and appropriate, but of absolutely no assistance. My anger is focused on AA’s management that believes some metric from your pricing group that you will squeeze a few more dollars from the traveler and there is no down side to having a loyal customer watch an empty seat take off, one that would have gotten them home to family 4 hours sooner.

    I am a Priority Gold traveler with AA, (XXXXXXX) but that loyalty is one sided, there is no reciprocal benefit.

    Yes, I had an inexpensive discounted ticket, but that was available, I bought it less than 48 hours before my flight. Take a look at my purchase history this past year. You’ll see I also bought a lot of expensive tickets as well.

    Your decisions are set up to abuse your most profitable customer the business traveler. Recreational traveler know their flights weeks in advance lock in schedule and get fares that business travelers can only dream of. Me short notice, do the best that I can and hope for a little luck once in a while.

    I promise I will let as many people as I can know of AA’s commitment to it’s customers, especially friends who travel on business. Unfortunately I’m not the social media wizard my children are but sitting here waiting 4 hours for a flight gives me time to learn.

    I’ll be making this same trip a week from Monday and I will do my very best to be boarding a JetBlue flight from terminal C instead of my usual AA flight from terminal B.

    I hope this wakes you up. I also hope I can clarify your reputation. I’ve flown you since Mohawk Airlines, stayed loyal for years and got kicked to the curb regularly. I’m done.

    • D. Jones
      REPLY

      Re: American Airlines
      AA is at the top of the heap when it comes to the number of passenger complaints for good reason. After a recent travel fiasco, we got limited satisfaction from the airline’s customer relations department, I am working on a complaint to the US Department of Transportation Aviation Consumer Protection Division and now, Twitter and Facebook. Thought I would give AA the benefit of the doubt before airing the dirty laundry, but you’re right. “Loyalty” is a one-way street.

  • Bharat
    REPLY

    Don’t purchase Mobiles on https:/dealbeams.com, it’s a fraudulent website,I have lost₹8490, They are not responding for email & toll-free number not working

  • RAHUL
    REPLY

    JUST DIAL IS A FAKE COMPANY, FRAUD!! I SAID YES FOR THEIR PACKAGE AND PAID 14K ON 14TH MARCH 2018…THEY DID NOT ACTIVATED MY SERVICE FOR 10 DAYS. THE STAFF OVER THE PHONE AND SALES MANAGER TALKS CHEAP AND MISBEHAVE… SALES MANAGER WHO CAME TO PICK MY CHECK AND DOCUMENTS WAS SO UNPROFESSIONAL…HE WAS WEARING JEANS, CHAPPAL, ALL DIRTY LOOK LIKE HE DIDN’T TOOK BATH SINCE LONG. SINCE THEN I HAVE NOT RECEIVED A SINGLE CUSTOMER CALL, EMAIL, SMS INQUIRING FOR MY SERVICES…I WROTE EMAIL, TRIED CALLING THE EXECUTIVE KASHISH CHAWLA, SHE IGNORED ME AND TILL DATE THERE’S NO CALL OR REPLY TO MY EMAIL….I TRIED CHATTING WITH HER TO RAISE MY ISSUE, NO REPLY!! ALSO, WHEN I SAW OTHER MERCHANTS, BUSINESS PEOPLE WHO WROTE SAME PROBLEM ON JUST DIAL FACEBOOK PAGE https://www.facebook.com/JustDial/ (CLICK ON COMMENTS) THEY’RE FACING SAME PROBLEM AND COMPLAINING ABOUT STAFF AND SERVICES….I WAS SHOCKED!! NONE OF THEM GOT ANY REPLY OR HELP FROM JUST DIAL……….

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