Twitter complaints: Companies respond more quickly

The One Show tests company response times

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Both British Airways and Virgin Media have recently been left red-faced by consumers who took to social media to complain, but how effective is it and what are the potential pitfalls of pushing your complaint?

The BBC TV programme The One Show set up an experiment to see whether complaining to a business through social media gets you a faster response than email.

They contacted five different companies over email and Twitter, asking each to contact them about a problem.

How to complain through social media.

  • If you can, bring your complaint to life by including a photo or video
  • Contact the company on both Twitter and Facebook - sometimes different teams manage each
  • Try not to complain in anger or use bad language as your complaint is more likely to be deleted or ignored
  • When tweeting, mention the brand's Twitter handle in the tweet (a mention) rather than at the very start of it (a reply). This ensures that your tweet is visible to all users
  • Make sure your complaint is clear and succinct
  • To really put the pressure on a brand, get friends to retweet, comment and add to the debate
  • Never reveal personal details such as account or reference numbers in a public message

Will Francis, Social Media Expert

The results could hardly have been clearer. All five replied personally and quickly to the tweets.

The fastest response time was just 3 minutes, the slowest 1 hour and 10 minutes.

After 24 hours only one company had responded to email.

The results were no surprise to social media expert Will Francis.

"Companies feel obliged to respond when it's in a public forum," he says.

"A complaint on social media has potentially loads of power to you because it's in a public forum unlike email or phone which are private. A Tweet or a Facebook post are there for the world to see so a brand really has to respond to that."

However, he warns that complaining through Twitter isn't guaranteed to fix your problems.

"You should also take into account that even though you get a quick initial reply from a company, you won't necessarily get your complaint resolved any quicker."


Recent well publicised cases show how consumers have successfully taken to social media to complain.

Earlier this month a British Airways customer paid to get his complaint promoted on Twitter to a wider audience. Businessman Hasan Syed was fed up with the way British Airways was handling the issue of his father's lost luggage.

He tweeted "Don't fly @BritishAirways. Their customer service is horrendous".

British Airways later told the BBC: "We would like to apologise to the customer for the inconvenience caused. We have been in contact with the customer and the bag is due to be delivered today,"

In April this year Jim Boyden, posted a photograph on Facebook of a bill from Virgin Media for his late father in-law; it included a fine for late payment. The post was shared more than 53,000 times - the company apologised to the family.

The One Show is broadcast on BBC One weekdays at 19:00.

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