Are social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter changing the way we complain?
So you’re out shopping to buy an expensive product; a smartphone, or one of the latest dell laptops or printers. But the service you get is rude and poor. What do you do? Most people would fill out a complaint form, or want to speak to the manager. But often people don’t feel this is enough and want to let the world know of their frustrations, particularly when faced with a seemingly impassive company.
However a new trend seems to be emerging off the back of the social networks. People are taking to the social media platforms to air their grievances, making this the new battleground… and boy do they have a voice.
A survey conducted by communications agency Fishburn Hedges and Echo Research points to this trend. It polled 2,000 UK adults and found that, in April 2012, 36% had used a social media platform to contact a big company to complain. Around 65% of those surveyed said they believed a social media platform was a better way to communicate with companies than call centres, or directly in store.
It was also found that although half of people aged between 18 and 24 used this method to engage with the big brands, older people were also turning to this technique. They found that 27% of those surveyed aged 55 and above had also engaged big brands in this way.
Peter Davis complained on Twitter after he bought a computer online only for a microwave to be delivered to his home. “This was preferable to calling their customer services line and being put on hold for inordinate length of time listening to pulsating dance music…Once my tweet was published someone from the company contacted me almost immediately. The next day I received a parcel containing the item I initially ordered.”
And it’s not limited to the retail industry. There are reports of consumers turning to social media following disruptions to trains, telephone and internet service problems and a host of other issues. The ability to send a short tweet from a mobile device into the public sphere makes it particularly convenient, and can actually provide a solution to a problem as and when it is occurring.
Facebook and Google+ are also places where firms are engaging with their customers. The issue of “public humiliation” seems to be the main point, with firm doing their best to protect their reputations.
But the use of social media to engage with customers can also backfire. The Australian airliner, Qantas, discovered this in November 2011 when it encouraged people to use the Qantas Luxury hashtag to share positive experiences of flying with the airline, with the incentive for participation being a prize of luxury pyjamas.
Instead it was flooded with thousands of complaints and sarcastic comments from unhappy customers who felt the service they received could not have been further from what they considered to be luxury.
Social media platforms are spurring a number of revolutions and the one in the form of complaints seems to have taken off. Big businesses watch out!