Anyone who has ever tried to navigate a voicemail menu or been stranded on hold by a customer service rep knows how maddening it can be to get help over the phone. According to an American Express survey, more than half of callers say they've lost their temper while on the line with a representative. That may explain why more and more people are turning to social media to vent their frustrations. In a J.D. Power survey of more than 23,000 online shoppers, 67% reported having used social media to lodge a complaint.
"When you post on Facebook or Twitter, it's essentially public shaming, which forces the company to reply," says online consumer advocate Kim Komando. Even so, fewer than 15% of messages actually get a response (see chart). Here's how to make sure yours is one of them.
Pick the Right Platform
Knowing where to gripe—whether it's Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, or even Tumblr—is crucial, says digital marketing and customer service consultant Jay Baer. Check the company's website for dedicated customer service handles, such as @NikeSupport or @AskAmex. According to social analytics firm Simply Measured, more than one-third of top brands now have such a Twitter handle.
Speak the Lingo
Many companies monitor Facebook and Twitter for mentions of their brand. To get on a company's radar, you'll need to use hashtags effectively. Tag not only the name of the business but also #needhelp and #customerservice, Komando suggests. Also, ask friends and family to retweet or share your Facebook post to gain traction.
Online complaints hold more power when they offer context, Komando says, so briefly describe your problem: How many hours did your plane sit on the tarmac? How much did your cable bill spike? How many days late was your shipment? Attach a photo— a picture of your damaged package, for example—to make your post or tweet stand out. But don't include personal information, such as your phone number, confirmation number, or email. You can send that in a private message later.
Time It Right
Many companies are on duty 24/7 with respect to mining social media for complaints, so posting your message outside regular business hours—when you'll be competing with fewer customers for attention—can help your post or tweet get noticed.
Take the Conversation Private
While social media can be a great tool for initiating a conversation, getting your problem resolved may require some follow-up. If you need to continue the discussion off-line, ask for the phone number or email address of a specific customer service representative, not the main phone number. After all, the last thing you want is to call and get put on hold.