Dan Grech

Dan Grech is an Email Marketing Manager for a global luxury fashion retailer.

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9 December 2012 - 2:56pm | posted by | 10 comments

How NOT to deal with complaints on Twitter

How NOT to deal with complaints on TwitterHow NOT to deal with complaints on Twitter

Dear The Drum readers,

It has been sometime that I posted an opinion piece here, but I feel compelled to outline this case study. I also feel that the topic would benefit from the input of other marketing professionals.

It's approaching three years since Twitter hit the mainstream with a bang and was adopted by brands far and wide. The role Twitter played in the recovery and rescue efforts of Hurricane Sandy's aftermath is a massive example of how this technology has proven itself as one of the best means of communication in the world.

Different brands have different needs of where this social network fits into their business model. Some use it as a Marketing channel, others a PR tool. However, all should recognise it as a customer service forum that has to be treated with respect and sensitivity.

I would be fascinated to hear your thoughts on how this company have used Twitter in reaction to a complaint.

I've presented my experience in the form of an open letter.

Dear iSubscribe,

Last week I had an overwhelming experience with you. Little over six weeks ago, colleagues kindly purchased me a subscription for my favourite mag as a birthday gift.

After five weeks of not receiving anything, I emailed your customer support address (that was provided with the order confirmation). I received a bounce back email from a different company's email address, with a third different domain stated in the 'from' field. Not a great user journey, right....?

Five more days passed, prompting me to resend the email. Alas, days passed but I received no response.

I decided to make my protest in the place that a digitally savvy twenty-something knows they can be heard -Twitter - thus warning my friends and following to avoid making any subscriptions with your company, because you might not receive it as promised!

"Don't buy a magazine subscription through @iSubscribeUK. You won't receive it!"

My colleague who organised this gift proceeded to call your helpline, who were very helpful and all appeared to be resolved.... Or did it?

Later that afternoon, I was horrified to discover that you deemed my grievance worthy of reporting to the Managing Director of my workplace. As my job title / employer is listed in my bio like many Twitter users, this is to effectively network with like-minded people - not a direction for who my tweets should be held accountable for.

What were you trying to achieve by doing this? Were you hoping that my employer would punish me? Is this your protocol in dealing with customer complaints?

I am very keen to hear back from you,

Kind Regards,


Personally, I think iSubscribe should be ashamed with this instance. They must revisit their social media strategy and document how complaints should be handled. I'm sure reporting disgruntled customers to their employer is not what they considered best practise.

Naturally, I am considering an element of bias in my opinion which is why I decided to document the above event. I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on how this was handled and what your experiences have been when using Twitter to complain to brands.


10 Dec 2012 - 12:03
foodieclaire's picture

Disappointing. Personally I think it shows an example of a cowardly reaction that they struggle to understand the concept of customer service. They have avoided the issue of asking you what they could have done to rectify the situation and thought that contacting the MD would be effective when really it shows the ethics of their company if they think the MD has time to be reprimanding staff for their own shortfalls.

10 Dec 2012 - 12:54
alexa18932's picture

I think it's ridiculous. They took the comment from the customer too personally rather than in a professional manner. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and if they want to warn friends not to use a company via twitter then that's their choice. I have a company on Twitter (http://www.theultimatebabyshower.co.uk) and am open to comments, questions and feedback from any one of my followers. I think it's a great way of receiving direct feedback from my customer base

10 Dec 2012 - 13:14

"Don't buy a magazine subscription through @iSubscribeUK. You won't receive it!"

Looking at this objectively, do you think it falls under the category of opinion, public service or a fact that can be proven - or is it a blatant untruth?

I'm not surprised they escalated it to your boss given you posted from what might appear from the outside as being a company account. That's not a "reaction to a complaint", it's a "reaction to a potentially libellous comment".

This article could be renamed "How NOT to voice complaints on Twitter" and there would be as many lessons to be learned from it. Newspapers wouldn't have gotten away with using your tweet as a headline and the only reason you've gotten off lightly is that Twitter users generally don't have the reach of other media formats. Escalating the story further on blogs and news sites though, might get the attention of their lawyers.

Social media is still an immature discipline and I think people need to remember that the same laws apply that do to other publishing formats.

A libel legal primer here might be worth a read; http://www.kernelmag.com/comment/opinion/3656/twitter-and-libel-a-legal-...

10 Dec 2012 - 13:46
dan.grech's picture

@TheRealBoydo48160 thanks for your points here. Although I'm concerned that you're looking at this on a very micro level, whilst I'm trying to apply it to the masses. Take phone companies for example... When their signal drops out in an area, causing wide-spread panic over their service and users make similar remarks i.e. "Don't sign a contract with @O2. You won't have any signal" which we see time and time again (with any service failures) that the case should be considered libellous? Or that @O2 have the right to deliver a complaint to that user's employer?

Did you consider that I had emailed the company on separate occasions before proceeding to make an attention grabbing remark?

And why do you think an outsider (that is clearly a Twitter user) would consider a reference to another company in a users bio as that company's account when there is no reference to the employer in the users handle or avatar?

I'm interested in hearing your thoughts further.

10 Dec 2012 - 14:24

I think the key point I was making, was the process changed from being a customer / business relationship (albeit a bad one) to being that of a publisher / audience. The former, you are protected, the latter your target is protected (by default at least in terms of burden of proof).

Twitter isn't just a circle of friends chatting (which is what a lot of people tend to view it as) - anyone can follow you and even if they don't, anyone can read your tweets. It's a public publishing platform, no different from a company blog, media website, printed newspaper or whatever.

With regards your company, your bio lists your job title and employer, so it was fair (well, perhaps fair is the wrong word, but at least not entirely unreasonable) for iProspect to escalate the issue to their own management team who then chose to deal with it the way they did. It was a professional issue at that point, regardless of the customer / business relationship you had with them up until then. Realistically, tweeting during business hours from an account with a business card-esque bio does drag your employer into what you say, whether it's intended or not.

There are a bunch of laws in place to protect consumers - tweeting or blogging isn't "the next step" in resolving problems with companies, for very good reason. For all the tweets that come out with stuff like this, yes, they could find themselves in hot water if the companies they are tweeting about could be bothered pursuing the issue, which most can't, although the Lord McAlpine stuff of recent weeks is a perfect example of what could happen regularly.

Businesses aren't obliged to placate the frustrations of consumers via social media - it just happens to be a good medium to do so and many companies do it to good effect. But social media is still the wild west and I think people in general need to understand that it's not a one on one customer service channel where they can voice concerns, nor is it a private forum to chat with friends. It's a publishing platform, which in some ways elevates the individual to the level of accountability that may usually be expected from businesses.

There is a lack of clarity in general with social media though (something I suspect will change over the next few years), and yes iProspect could have handled the initial problems better. But publishing "untruths" about a business on a public platform is a risky business, particularly when your profession, seniority and employer will cause your statement to attract more attention than it otherwise would have.


(PS when I say "untruths", I'm not suggesting anything sinister - I understand the context of the tweet completely and sympathise with the situation. I'm just thinking in certain terms, the tweet technically isn't a true statement. Just a point for discussion, etc).

10 Dec 2012 - 22:18

Oops. I'm the actual person responsible for this. A mea culpa here http://wp.me/p22y1K-3q

11 Dec 2012 - 10:40
christopherwoods's picture

If you post through a company account, at that point, you are representing their corporate viewpoint and considered opinion. Dan Grech was silly to take advantage of the obviously increased eyeballs watching his employer's widely popular company account.

Don Brown could have perhaps raised this informally in a quick face to face discussion with his boss, instead of crystallise it in an email. Discretion is the better part of valour, and a spoken question also doesn't require a formal response from whomever the question is asked. You will find that often you omit more in a verbal discussion than you do in a written one, simply because you self-edit as you go for brevity.

If you had to pin responsibility for this teacup storm, It's about 70/30 Dan/Don. If I tweeted something deliberately contentious through my employer's accounts, I would expect potential fallout.

Aside: if Dan had written "you might not receive it", this would have arguably not qualified his statement as libelous. As it is, the absolute nature of his unqualified statement firmly qualifies it as libel, something The Drum is in turn responsible for as it's an action of an employee. I would expect a review of all tweets sent by Dan for a few weeks at least - and perhaps a new policy or internal structure for sending ad-lib / personal messages through the important company-brand media channels.

Come on guys, it's not hard. I'll restrain myself from making a jibe about this whole thing given the context of The Drum's strapline ;-)

Golden rule: if you're miffed, write what you want to say - then before you hit enter, stop, leave it a minute, re-read it and say 'is this really wise'?' Getting it out of your head sometimes does the job without actually posting. And as my mother's repeatedly told me (and continues to do so), "engage brain before mouth". ;-)

11 Dec 2012 - 13:33
dan.grech's picture

@christopherwoods Christopher, I did not post this through my employer's Twitter account. It was posted off my personal one, the handle and image bares no reference to my employer what so ever.

13 Dec 2012 - 16:34
pieces_of_me100's picture

I think that iSubscribe took this too far, and it should not have got back to your MD- that seems extremely over the top.

But I also think that if you're going to write a negative comment about another brand (whether it be true or not), your Twitter profile should not state your workplace, as naturally, your workplace may then be associated with a negative comment about another brand.

I have 2 Twitter profiles, a personal one and a work one and this is how I manage to remain professional, yet air my own personal opinions about other companies.

13 Dec 2012 - 21:24
James Cook

Despite all the froth around Social Media, many people have forgotten how to handle tricky conversations and confrontations. Negative bloggers can actually become your best advocates, they just want to be listened to 9 times out of 10. Good old fashioned customer service, listen and remodel your service and align your brand proposition.

Forget reading the Social Media bandwagon books I have read most of them, read this book or download it from iTunes, written 1936 Dale Carnegie - How to Win Friends and Influence People.

It's more relevant now than it's ever been.

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