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Complaining via Twitter for a Rapid Response

Monday, 6 October 2014

Social media is increasingly being utilised by consumers to make complaints against companies.

Savvy social media users are harnessing the fact that many companies are keen to avoid negative publicity in the Twittersphere, resulting in the proposition that social media quite often provides the most efficient method of resolving certain types of complaints or issues with a company.

In this way, customers are able to take advantage of a much more expedient way of resolving their consumer issues. Meanwhile, businesses are having to learn how to respond to complaints through these new mediums.

The Power of a Tweet

A tweet with the right handle can be seen by millions of other users, including current and potential customers, so companies are increasingly keen to resolve quickly any issues that might stain the image of the company.

Numerous accounts testify to this phenomenon. Twitter has been used successfully in queue jumping by a customer stuck on a telephone helpline for a lengthy period of time; social media has also been used as a bargaining tool, where the mere possibility that a consumer may “tweet” his grievance provided a quick resolution, and Twitter has even induced a train operator to switch the heating on inside a train.

A Twitter Department?

Dedicated departments or outsourcing functions focused entirely on answering and resolving complaints posted on social media can be the most appropriate way of handling this increasingly common phenomenon. This is generally a resourcing issue but it can also help isolate and control the firm’s social media output which is an important way of managing legal risks.

The use of Twitter by customers in this way has led to them having heightened expectations with regard to social media responses. Replies to letters, phone messages (calls even), and email is certainly not expected instantaneously. However, the majority of Twitter users are now doing so with the general expectation that a response to communication will be made within the hour by companies they Tweet. This necessitates constant attention insofar as the company expects to serve customers’ needs.

Indeed, with 88 FTSE 100 companies having a Twitter account (74 have a LinkedIn account; 58 have a Facebook page), it’s clear that large corporates are aware of the importance of social media.

Legal Risks with Tweeting

Legal risks to which companies should be aware of when responding to and communicating with customers on social media, include actionable posts, such as defamatory or libellous posts or even criminal posts, e.g. the Twitter Bomb Hoax trial.

In addition, companies must make sure any sales or marketing use of social media is decent, honest and truthful; this entails that a tweet simply advertising something is, for example, made clear it is an advertisement.

A New Standard of Customer Care

In general, proper engagement by dedicated employees to customers’ social media behaviour will go much further than merely ignoring or supressing critical commentary. Some policies can even turn complaints into marketing opportunities and advantages.

Indeed, as companies such as Argos have demonstrated, when a complaint is given a personal touch or humour – such as responding to colloquialism with colloquialism – the company may be seen to be taking positives from what originally started out as a complaint.

Managing customer complaints well is the best way to avoid them escalating into protracted grievances or even legal proceedings. Ensuring that appropriate polices are in place to protect both employees and the firm are also an important aspect of using Twitter as a complaints management tool.

For specialist advice regarding social media legal issues contact Peter Gourri today by email or telephone 0207 611 4848.

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