Every year customers make millions of complaints. About holidays, mobile phones, energy bills, bank accounts, credit cards, things we’ve bought that are not quite what we paid for, you name it.
Most firms have established procedures for dealing with complaints - often involving an expensive, time-consuming and frustrating phone call, piped music on a loop included. But there may be a short cut: Twitter.
Twitter feed complaining using tweets can be swift and effective
The very nature of this shortest and sharpest of social media platforms means issues can be resolved pretty quickly. Twitter complaints can easily eclipse unanswered email complaints in their effectiveness, with emails often remaining frustratingly unanswered, your pleas simply landing in a customer service inbox where they go to wither and die.
And we all know the singular misery of hanging on the telephone, suffering in silence, waiting for meaningful human contact with a sympathetic and efficient call centre employee and an average holding time of, well, how long have you got? “Your call is important to us.” Righto. Then prove it.
But Twitter can break this torturous cycle. Here are three anecdotal examples from readers:
* A train operator AND a district council. What fun. Both answered in minutes. Very impressive. Refunds. Sorted.
* Using Twitter to help a friend's mum receive a £600 gas bill refund after she went into a care home. She had tried for months via the traditional phone rigmarole.
* Instant, positive reaction from a major department store over a faulty table when a complaint was made using Twitter.
Not all firms watch Twitter feeds well
Sometimes, of course, you may find you get no better response tweeting than by other means.
But it’s always worth trying, especially with firms nervy about their poor public image like energy companies and banks, those that care about their reputation and, of course, those that have a Twitter feed for customer complaints.
And because Twitter is instant, the teams that deal with the responses want an instant answer.
Read our guide to complaining effectively
Why is Twitter effective?
Twitter is effective because, unlike email, phones, and letters, it is public. Some 145 million daily users around the world could see your tweet – with nearly 14 million of them in the UK.
The search facility means that anyone researching a firm can find all the tweets mentioning it. And if the complaint strikes a chord with others it will be retweeted and could go viral.
Five golden rules for complaining using Twitter
1. Keep it specific
Find and use the firm's @name - many have dedicated customer twitterfeeds which Twitter will find once you start typing it.
2. Keep it brief
Explain your problem in no more than 280 characters, including spaces. It can be a challenge. But the essence of it can always be boiled down. Resist writing a string of tweets. One strong message is more likely to be retweeted.
3. Keep it factual
Avoid abuse and irrelevant material. But be strong in your complaint.
4. Keep it going
If you get no response, make the lack of response the subject matter of your next complaint.
5. Keep it public
Don't agree to divert to direct messaging. You might as well email or phone.
It’s also useful to repeat your complaint to someone with a lot of Twitter followers who may be influential. “I am having a real problem of yyy with @xxxxxx about zzzz. What can I do?”
What are your rights if a delivery is late?
As more and more of us use Twitter to complain, it may in time become less useful. But the fact it’s public, and has the potential to go viral and embarrass the firm, is a huge advantage over all other ways of complaining.
So next time you hit a brick wall, suffer a long delay, or find yourself battling with complete indifference why not try it? And let money expert Paul Lewis know how it goes @paullewismoney
* You can follow Saga on Twitter @SagaUK