How Social Media Has Transformed Customer Service Complaints

Lauren Krause
Posted by in Customer Service

Social media has transformed entertainment, communication and daily life, but it also plays an important role in customer service. A customer's negative experience regarding a product, service or store visit has always been bad for business. The company may lose that customer forever, and he is likely to share his bad experience with others. Social media has magnified the power of customer service complaints, forcing organizations to shift their focus.

Thanks to social media, one customer's opinion about a company can reach hundreds or thousands of people within hours. A customer service complaint is no longer isolated to that person's small circle of friends. In fact, some complaints may go viral, being seen by more than a million potential customers.

When a customer has a negative experience, the first thing he is likely to do is go to Facebook or Twitter and post a complaint, and with mobile apps, the time before posting is cut even shorter. In response to this, companies must deal with complaints faster than ever to satisfy the unhappy customer and avoid a negative backlash from users. According to a 2012 report from Oracle, more than 50 percent of Twitter users expect a response to a complaint within just two hours, and more than half of Facebook users expect a response within 24 hours.

With these increased customer expectations on social media, many companies are assigning dedicated staff to monitor Twitter handles and Facebook pages to respond to complaints as they arise. Although this may seem like a drawback for companies, it can work to their advantage as numerous users see the complaints well-handled. Unfortunately, roughly 70 percent of complaints voiced on Twitter go unanswered according to research company evolve24; this can negatively impact the businesses in question.

One example of how social media has transformed the way companies deal with customer service can be seen with American Airlines. Since initiating a social media presence in 2009, the company has tasked more than 16 employees to deal with customer service on social media. According to American Airlines social communications analyst Katy Phillips, the company is placing a heavy focus on customer loyalty and protecting its brand reputation.

The way in which representatives respond to service complaints has also been transformed by social media. When a customer complains on Facebook or Twitter, he expects a personal response with an appropriate tone, and canned responses are taboo. Employees must engage customers while tailoring the response and tone to the customer and situation.

With millions of potential and existing customers using social media, it is clear that companies need to pay close attention to their online presence. Customers are posting complaints faster than ever, and a poor experience may be passed along indefinitely if the complaint goes unanswered.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at



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