At some point we all interact with a sales or customer service rep. Whether we're buying a new TV, renewing our car insurance, or changing our internet service provider, reps play an essential part in our customer experience.
If you're lucky, you speak to someone who's charming, funny and knows what he or she is talking about. If you're not, you may come away feeling frustrated, angry and irritated.
The Power of Social Media
Despite our increasing dependency on digital communication, the good ol' telephone is still the most popular way to contact customer service. But, in recent years, social media has proved itself to be an incredibly powerful tool for sharing our brand experiences – good or bad.
Many of us now resort to lodging complaints online (38 percent of us, in fact). And, with 879 million complaints posted online each year, you'd be forgiven for thinking that we only really use these channels to have a good moan. After all, what better way to get your voice heard than on a public forum like Facebook (which has over two billion users worldwide) or Twitter (with 330 million users)?
And yet, interestingly, online praise actually outweighs complaints by more than 30 percent. Given the global reach of social media channels, these online success stories have become very valuable to those who have earned them. They can do wonders to boost a brand's reputation.
On the other hand, when things go wrong on social media, they have the potential to go very wrong. In fact, they might even go "viral"– just look at some of these epic online customer service fails.
How to Post Online Complaints
So, if you do want to lodge a complaint online, what's the best way to go about it?
1. Calm Down!
If you're getting in touch with a company to complain, you're likely a bit "peeved" already. But, as much as you'd like to tell the world exactly what you think of the organization in question, take a moment to calm down before you hit "post." The web doesn't need any more rants from bitter "trolls."
And remember that what you post online, stays online – possibly forever. This means that your ugly post might just pop up on a background check for your next job application. Although publicly shaming a company that you think has wronged you might be your first instinct, you need to realize that doing so will not only impact your target, but you as well.
2. Use Social Media for a Speedy Response
Nevertheless, social media is a great way to get a quick response to your complaint. Many larger companies now employ teams whose sole responsibility is to monitor online interactions. Eric Sass reports that 55 percent of British social media complainers were "offered a speedy solution to their problem, and 28 percent said the company's customer service representatives offered cash, rebates or freebies to help resolve the issue."
So, to begin with, you could post a simple tweet, such as: "@COMPANYNAME I need help and have an outstanding concern. Please DM me."
Or, if the company doesn't seem to be active on Twitter, check out its website to check which social media platform it uses most. Ideally, it will be one where you already have an account. If you don't, you may need to set one up. Be sure to use authentic personal details on your profile, or you may be dismissed as a troll.
3. Do Some Investigation Work
If you still don't get the desired response (or you get no response at all), it's time to investigate further.
First, find out what handles (addresses) the company uses on its preferred social media platform.
Then, consider messaging departments other than customer service. Is there perhaps an address you can use for marketing or product development, for instance? Getting someone from another department "on side" will likely increase the pressure on customer service to resolve your complaint.
4. Write a Review
Your final resort might be to write an online review. If this is the case, proceed with caution!
First, compose a draft. Keep it short and to the point. Avoid backstories, like what a bad day you were having before the problem arose.
If you've already tried to resolve your complaint on the telephone, include specifics such as the names of people who you interacted with, the promises that they made, the length of time you were required to wait, and so on. Facts like these will help to boost your cause.
At all costs, avoid exaggeration and insults. It may seem funny at the time to refer to the company as "douchebags," or something worse, but this will only provide them with ways to undermine your credibility. Your review will be more effective if you can balance complaints with compliments.
Always check your spelling and grammar before publishing your final review. Better still, get someone else to read it first.
Then, tweet your review or post it to the company's Facebook page. Or, if you post your review on a blog, take it to content sharing sites like Digg, Reddit, Delicious, StumbleUpon, and FriendFeed. These sites use indexing techniques to push your blog to other relevant sites based on its content, increasing its visibility. (Be advised, however, that you need to have accounts at these sites.)
Remember, complaining online can often speed up the response time. But it can also ruin reputations – including yours! So, be careful, keep your emotions in check, and never forget to balance pessimism with praise and positivity!
Have you ever complained about a company online? What response did you get? Was it a cyber success or an epic fail? Share your stories in the comments section below…