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Happy to help: are companies more responsive to social media complaints?

By Andrew Boulton

January 22, 2013 | 4 min read

A funny thing happened to me this week.

*Perfunctory caption for tenuous image*

No don’t worry, you’ve not accidentally stumbled into a Russ Abbott comedy routine from 1985 (or a Michael McIntyre one from 2013 come to think of it). A ‘funny’ thing (in the loosest, most Michael McIntyre sense of the word) did actually occur.

I have had a not inconsiderable falling out with a leading supermarket chain. In the interest of fairness I do not intend to name them here. Let’s just say if you’re currently eating one of their beef burgers, don’t.

They had wronged me and I had asked them, rather politely, to correct their mistake. First on the phone. Then via email. Then via another email. Then via a third email. Then I painted my complaint onto the torso of a ferocious bear and let it loose in their store, causing untold carnage and horrific injury. I didn’t do the last one. I couldn’t find a bear.

All my complaints, via telephone, email and angry mammal were ignored. No one had ever been quite as comprehensively fobbed off since Hollywood refused to make a third ‘Under Siege’ film.

So what could I do? I was but a tiny man (albeit with excellent hair and a fine collection of corduroy trousers) and they were an almighty corporation, capable of destroying a thriving high street with a single wink of their enormous, evil eye.

So I did what all self respecting modern consumers would do. I had a tantrum on Twitter.

Copying in said supermarket, I proceeded to list all the things that were less rubbish than their customer service. These included:

1. Being in a swimming pool when someone has clearly done a big wee.

2. Being stung in both eyes by a wasp.

3. Slightly damp crisps.

4. Wonky haircuts when you don’t know if they’re supposed to be wonky or something has actually gone horribly wrong.

5. Being trapped in a wheelie bin.

6. People on the bus who smell like they’ve never been off the bus.

7. Nick Grimshaw’s face, hair, voice and empty, empty soul.

8. Bad ravioli.

There were in fact plenty more to come, but before I could compare them unfavourably to the weaker episodes of ‘Quantum Leap’, some incredibly polite young chap from the supermarket got in touch and asked how he could help.

A few swift and pleasant direct messages later and the problem, which had taken me to the verge of unleashing a wild creature into a heavily populated urban supermarket, was swiftly and satisfactorily resolved.

And as happy as I was that my puerile Twitter campaign had yielded results, I couldn’t help but think that the whole thing should never been allowed to get that far.

It seems that this company is adopting a far more proactive and effective customer service policy through their social media channels than they are through their established processes.

You don’t have to be the kind of cynic who does not enjoy the ‘Under Siege’ films to suspect that the company is putting all their efforts into appearing to be ‘customer focussed’ in the most visible medium, while shamefully neglecting other, unseen customer interactions.

Earning praise for approachable and considerate social media customer relations means precisely nothing if the fundamental principles of service within the business’ traditional communication structure is being ignored.

Still, at least I got my problem sorted and I made it to the end of the blog without ever revealing that it was Tesco. Sh*t.


Andrew Boulton is a copywriter at the Together Agency. His burger tastes a bit funny.


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