Twitter: It's the only effective way to complain

In: BlogDate: Oct 26, 2012By: Henry Stewart

Last Saturday I got an outraged call from my daughter: “Dad, the bank is stealing my money”. She had accidentally gone £9 into overdraft, the first time she had ever been overdrawn. Within a short time the charges had racked up to £135.

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I tweeted @asknationwide. (Well, actually I tweeted @nationwide first but they responded, on a Sunday evening, to let me know they were a US insurance company and perhaps I wanted somebody else.) After an exchange of tweets and a single call, the charges had been refunded and all was well again.

Would this have happened without Twitter? Certainly not so quickly. We both first sent emails, to which we didn’t get responses. My daughter tried to get through on the phone but couldn’t as she lacked the necessary phone code. But Twitter now seems to offer an accelerated route in, for those companies who are actively using it.

Home Insurance Problem: Sorted via Twitter

This morning my wife and I got letters to tell us that our More Than home insurance policy had been cancelled and would lapse within 14 days. Both letters were dated 3 weeks ago. After 25 minutes on the phone this morning I was given a renewal figure of £3,000, over four times the old rate. Could we just renew at the old rate? The computer said No.

I tweeted my view of @morethan and the response was quick. After an exchange of tweets and a phone call we are again fully insured at around £650. “The £3k quote was a mistake” they explained. But, without tweets, I would have had no option but to go elsewhere. Thank you, Twitter.

I first came across this kind of online response around 3 years ago when I noted on Facebook that my daughter had been involved in a near-riot in Brick Lane at an American Apparel special opening. I didn’t even realise my Facebook posts were public but within an hour I had an apology and a £50 voucher for her to spend.

@GreaterAnglia Gets Twitter, Tesco Doesn’t

It doesn’t work with all companies. @ocado did respond but failed to find a solution and lost me as a customer. On the other hand Tesco seems to pretty much ignore Twitter. (They certainly ignored my tweet complaint about their hopeless mobile phone web site.) But if you are travelling on Anglia Railways and hit a problem, try tweeting @greateranglia. Check their timeline – they will respond quickly, work out which train you are on and let you know exactly whats happening and how long any delays are likely to last.

Some years ago the Chief Executive of Birmingham Midshires published his home telephone number on the company’s leaflets. He wanted to hear directly from any customer with a problem. Few have followed his example but the company Twitter account seems to be playing the same role. When things go wrong, most of us want an easy route to somebody who can sort it out, for many, the company Twitter account provide that.

Or, at least, it does for the moment. Much of this is new. Nationwide only set up their Twitter account in January this year. Apparently only 2% of complaints are made using Twitter, so it is still a novelty and so rather effective. Will it still be so effective if it becomes the main route to complain?

Try It: Use Twitter to Complain

Try it. Next time you hit a problem with any company, try tweeting them. You can normally find their twitter ID by googling company name and Twitter. The more alert will notice if you mention their company name in any tweet, but to be sure send a tweet direct to the company.

If you are not on Twitter, this could be the reason to join. It could be worth it just to be able to get a direct route into many of our biggest companies. Instead of wading through “Press 1 for this & 2 for that” and hanging on for ages, a simple tweet could get you the response you need.

Are You Set Up to Respond?

In most companies there are people eager to respond and sort out problems their customers have. But too often its become very difficult to get through to them. So, do you have any easy route in to your company? And have you got a fabulously responsive Twitter account, staffed by somebody able to sort out problems? (There’s the wider question of whether you are responding to all the other bits of social media, and are aware when your company is mentioned, but that's another article.)

Feel free to test me out. I’m @happyhenry.

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Henry Stewart, Founder and Chief Happiness Officer

Henry is founder and Chief Happiness Officer of Happy Ltd, originally set up as Happy Computers in 1987. Inspired by Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick, he has built a company which has won multiple awards for some of the best customer service in the country and being one of the UK’s best places to work.

Henry was listed in the Guru Radar of the Thinkers 50 list of the most influential management thinkers in the world. "He is one of the thinkers who we believe will shape the future of business," explained list compiler Stuart Crainer.

His first book, Relax, was published in 2009. His second book, the Happy Manifesto, was published in 2013 and was short-listed for Business Book of the Year.

You can find Henry on LinkedIn and follow @happyhenry on Twitter.

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