Photo: daoro via Flickr
When Spirit Airlines botched my flight home from Montego Bay in July and stuck me with an 8-hour overnight layover in Ft. Lauderdale without bothering to inform me, I saw shades of red I never even knew existed. Experience has taught me that if you want speedy customer service these days, nothing works better than stirring up a good stink on the company’s Twitter or Facebook page.
So I skipped right past the airline’s bumbling ticketing representative and whipped out my smartphone.
Unfortunately, my fantasies of seeing “Spirit Air Is The Worst” shoot to the top spot as a trending topic were killed when I realised the company had neither an official Twitter or Facebook page to speak of.
Given the airline’s track record of abysmal customer service, it’s not hard to imagine why.
Companies basically open themselves up to a world of hurt when they offer customer service on public forums like social media sites.
These sites have rapidly become the new “town halls” for consumers to bash brands for falling short, much like National Bank Transfer Day gained steam on Facebook after banks announced plans to charge consumers $5 debit card fees.
But a new survey released this month by Conversocial revealed social media isn’t always the surest way to have your voice heard. In fact, some companies are straight up ignoring your tweets and wall posts.
Of 10 retail brands surveyed, the worst offenders were Costco, Kmart and Kroger, which were found to ignore 100 per cent of all consumer complaints on their Facebook page.
Sears and Safeway scored high marks, answering 57 per cent and 40 per cent of complaints in less than 30 minutes, respectively.
But overall, the study found the majority of complaints voiced on Twitter and Facebook were largely ignored.
Without social media as a platform, the chance that you may never hear back from a company about a complaint is slimmer than ever.
Here are some ways to give yourself the best shot at having your voice heard:
Be persistent. I set up a reminder for myself a week after I emailed Spirit with my first complaint so I would remember to email them again. After my second message, I received a response from a representative and had a full refund within a month.
Power in numbers. There were a couple dozen other passengers on my flight just as annoyed as I was when we were stuck overnight without any forewarning. As a group, we decided we would send in complaints and that may have helped us in the long run. It’s far more difficult to ignore a slew of identical messages than a single complaint.
Don’t underestimate the hashtag. Even if the company doesn’t have a Twitter account, that doesn’t mean you can’t cause a ruckus anyway. Tag your tweet with a hashtag and the company’s name (ex: #SpiritAIr, #Costco) and anyone who searches for their name on the site will eventually see your tweet. I tweeted a gripe about Spirit and saw my message retweeted by users who had similar experiences, which gave my message more impact.
Skip the phone. Customer service lines are a labyrinth seemingly designed to make you want to hang up. Going to a store in person to speak with a manager makes you harder to ignore. If that’s not an option, check out Gethuman.com, a great source for tracking down phone numbers for real people in companies.
Track your moves. It’s important to keep a record, so you can back yourself if a company tries to tell you they never received your complaint. Email leaves a trail, but if you call, record the date and time of the call and ask for the full name of whoever you speak with.
Take it to the top. A friend called Subway’s corporate office when he had a terrible experience at one of their shops and received a response in record time. The CEO does not want to be bothered by consumer complaints and it’s likely he or she will put pressure on lower level departments to get back to you if you pester their office too much.
Be nice. I’ll be the first to admit I can be hot headed when it comes to poor customer service. But before I call a company to complain, I give myself at least half an hour to gather my thoughts and calm myself down. You’re far more likely to have a positive result if you are kind and polite.