When does holding companies accountable in SM turn to whiny, woe-is me annoyances?

I recently saw a tweet from someone who complained that Verizon had it out for them and that they’d have to wait until their contract was up to get a new phone when the one they had was dysfunctional. The next day, I saw a tweet complaining that a hotel didn’t let people walking on the street into the lobby when it was pouring rain outside.

Seems we’ve all discovered the customer service side of social media. Hundreds of companies are in the social media sphere now to not only spread the word proactively about their organizations, but also to do damage/crisis control with less than happy customers.

But when does legitimate customer dissatisfaction turn into a public twitter and blogosphere annoyance? I’ll be honest – I’ve un-followed some perpetual pessimists on Twitter. Life’s hard enough, I don’t need their further affirmation of that in 140 characters or less.

Nota bene: The corporate world is not out to get you as an individual. If it is, voice your concerns publicly any way you so choose. That’s the beauty of freedom of speech. But when all you do is discuss whine about company wrong-doings on your blog, Facebook page or Twitter, what are you legitimately accomplishing? Every company has a customer service line…give them a call once every three times you want to tweet about how much “Blockbuster” ruined your life.

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  • jeffespo

    Kate from manning a corporate account, I can tell you that there are plenty of folks out there who turn to SM as a way to vent and seek help. I'd argue that it has opened up doors to an instant gratification type of thinking that traditional customer service cannot get to the consumer.

    Case in point – Comcast. When I have called up I get the runaround and can't get a tech out for days at a time. A Tweet to Bill or Frank over there gets someone to me the next day. Whether my non-help relationships with them helped this process or if it is something that just happens naturally is something that I can't be sure of.

    Now does the bitching and moaning go too far at times? Yes and to that perpetual whiner on your list, delete them because no one likes the town crier. Yes Kevin Smith, I am looking at you.

    In the end I'd say that it is OK to complain because it does help at times when you have reached the breaking point maybe the company is listening and can help you.

  • @jaykeith

    Kate, good topic.

    I think a bigger issue for discussion is when and where should companies even respond to, or legitimize, this kind of behavior? People are going to complain about something no matter what, but does that mean that the company being complained about should always respond? I would argue no, especially when it could potentially turn into a bigger issue and inflame the situation. More often than not, common sense dictates when a company should engage and get involved, or let the person yelling shout at the wind and ruin their own credibility. But it's a fine line, and one that each company must walk carefully, because one misstep either way, and you could have a bigger issue on your hands.

    And also, by responding to and legitimizing “invalid complaints” do you then invite more of them? It's an interesting topic to think about.

  • Look at my Vista Print friends commenting! Thanks so much Jay and Jeff!

    You both have valid points. I would particularly like to highlight and agree with you, Jay, that not every comment should be addressed. It would take an enormous amount of time and energy to address every bit said, and I think the companies that have chosen wisely where to serve as a help rather than a defense really *get* the utilization of SM for business.

  • Kate,

    This is a great topic for discussion, especially in that some companies may be enabling complaints. I never really thought about it that way, but you are right.

    If there is a mistake, maybe the mistake is turing a Twitter (or whatever network) account into a customer complaint service counter as opposed to effective two-way communication outlet. There is a difference. Most customer complaint service counters are one way communication, with the customer providing it.


  • I'm a little late getting my “breakfast” in today. Nonetheless, great post Kate! I view people as more credible if they post about both their positive and negative experiences. It helps build a bit of trust in their experiences. Otherwise, like you, I unfollow the Negative Nancy! The immediacy of social media interactions has definitely enabled more whining about not getting our way. Unfortunately, it's cheaper to hire one or two people to monitor SM than it is to hire 10-20 more people to help man the phone bank. 🙁