The [Better] Way to Complain on the Internet

Blog Posts ,Random Musings ,Services
December 21, 2013

We all have one: a friend (or five) who posts a lot of rants on Facebook about how one thing or another sucks, how a product is just so terrible! or how they can’t stand how that company ruins everything they try and release. This negativity is prevalent with the anonymity and “safety-in-numbers” feeling that the internet provides, but complaining to your Facebook friends or Instagramming a photo of the offending item with #seven#million#insulting#hashtags isn’t helpful. Instead of resolving whatever issue you’re facing, you’re reaching out for (and often receiving) validation to the idea that some big nameless organization has screwed you over. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t use the internet for complaints – but I am saying that there’s a better way to do it. Stop using Facebook rants: Twitter is where you’re going to get responses.

Imagine you’ve had a rough, busy day at work. It’s Friday night, you’ve spent a long week working on a big project, it’s getting late, and you haven’t been to the grocery store in two weeks. You hop online, order Chinese food, and groan inwardly at how much money you’re spending. That growling noise isn’t your cat, it’s your stomach and you’re ready for that food to be here five minutes ago. An hour later, still no food. You’re browsing Facebook, so naturally, it makes sense to share your frustration and blast the restaurant to all 389 of your closest friends. When your food eventually shows up, cold, you’re likely more upset then you were before, because a bunch of people added their helpful support (“Ugh! I’ll never order from them again!”).

This type of complaint isn’t beneficial. It isn’t constructive. Instead of raising the issue with the people in charge, you’re ranting to people who have no control over getting you your food. Facebook’s privacy settings, while dubious at times, don’t allow companies to easily find people who are having issues with their products and work to fix them. Instead, the individual who has a problem does not get assistance and ends up feeling worse about the experience; the company loses customers without ever knowing why.

One way that companies try to gather feedback is through reviews. Users can go and reach out when things go wrong, giving the company the opportunity to fix whatever happened. This, though, is a pretty standard way to complain about something and is often the target of falsified reviews from competitors or fake statements gushing about the company’s amazingness – Business Insider reported back in September that 20% of Yelp Reviews are fake. So if you don’t want to leave a review and complaining on Facebook just makes you angrier, how do you let companies know that you have a problem? Twitter.

I’ve heard a lot of people complain about Twitter – they think that the 140 character limit is a pain, they don’t see the point of trends – and there are plenty of reasons why people compare Twitter to Facebook and it falls short, but I’ve found it to be the single most effective way to get a big company’s attention when you have a problem with their service or their product. Why is this? Trending topics and the public search that Twitter provides allows virtually anyone with a Twitter account to see posts from hundreds of thousands of users. If I complain about, for example, GrubHub, on Twitter, anyone can see that by doing a search, regardless of whether they follow me, follow GrubHub, or if I’ve forgotten that trendy #hashtag. This type of visibility is bad for business, and more and more often, larger companies are paying employees to monitor their official accounts to handle complaints.

When I blogged about my Google Shopping Express experience, my post was shared on Twitter and found by customer service representatives who were extraordinarily quick to reach out to remedy the issue – I got a complete refund of my order and a free gift from them within the day. Twice, Verizon has answered my pleas for tech support when I’ve had phone issues over Twitter and helped me find a resolution. CapitalOne assisted with finding the right customer support email address; Windows Phone Support has helped troubleshoot my phone. In the example that I wrote about in the beginning of this post, I tweeted about my frustration with the delay in my delivery and GrubHub sent me a $10 off coupon. Is this always going to happen? No, and I don’t expect it to – but it is an underutilized internet tool for ensuring customer satisfaction.

So next time something goes wrong and you want to scream, yell, throw something, and then tell all 700 of your closest friends how much something sucks, consider tweeting it instead – because that’s going to get you a lot further than that Facebook post will.

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