Does Complaining About Customer Service In Social Media Make A Difference?

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Episode #222 of Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

Joseph Jaffe is widely regarded as one of the top Marketing Bloggers (Jaffe Juice) and Podcasters (both Jaffe Juice in audio and Jaffe Juice TV in video). He is the author of three excellent books (Life After The 30-Second Spot, Join The Conversation and Flip The Funnel). Along with that, he is currently one of the chiefs over at the Social Media Marketing agency, Powered. A long-time friend (and one of the main inspirations behind the Six Pixels of Separation Blog and Podcast), we’ve decided to hold monthly conversations, debates and back-and-forths that will dive a little deeper into the Digital Marketing and Social Media landscape. This is our ninth conversation (or, as I like to affectionately call it, Across The Sound 9.20), and this one focuses on customer service and how consumers use their online social networks to hold brands accountable. Does this make sense? Is this the best strategy? Does it even work? Enjoy the conversation…

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation – The Twist Image Podcast #222.


  1. Interesting discussion today (Regarding online complaints etc), and it reminds me of numerous times that I have discussions with clients, writers, colleagues and developers about enabling the comments field… when and why to enable it.
    To quote the John Gabriel’s ‘Greater Internet F¤#”wad Theory’, where;
    Normal person, + Anonimity + Audience = F¤#”wad.
    If you compare the comments on YouTube, to answers on Linkedin, this theory is shown.
    When people are publicly responding to someone, something or a complaint… via a social network, if their name is stamped on the response, then they’ll by nature, think carefully about what is said. Subconsciously they know that they are also putting their personal brand out there.
    Twitter still provides a degree of anonymity, so can we take what is said in Twitter as seriously? For me, I’ll always look at who’s making the statement.. rather than just looking at the statement.
    For those working in media (Editorial and Marcoms), we know that with an audience comes responsibility. This also applies to social… and the greater the audience, the greater the responsibility. Whether you are commenting on someones property or publishing to your own followers.
    Thanks again Mitch & Jaffe for another thought provoker and keeping our brains in motion.

  2. Complaining about customer service in social media is only effective if you can make your case compelling. Like anything, the power of the individual to make a difference lies in the amount of influence that individual can leverage. It’s always the same: until the complaint leaps off the screen into tangible action that affects the brand’s bottom line or goodwill balance, nothing will change.

  3. There are some people who do this with a legitimate gripe and they have no other outlet. There are some who do so for their own gain and leverage their community to have their bidding done. I like the way Joe refers to it as “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” – knowing that we all can’t do this all of the time is key. I’m doubtful that it will scale and confident that brands will begin to ignore them because in the volume comes the white noise.

  4. I’ve been in multiple instances where I have been told that many corporate communications and customer service strategies are changing because of Social Media. Meaning: if anyone posts anything in an online social network, they consider this a public record and it must be addressed. This is frustrating for me because I tend to not make my gripes public, so they’re actually penalizing me for not doing this. Nuts? Yup… I would agree.

  5. I think complaining about customer service using social media and the companies listening to the complaints and responding (while following previously established policies for responses) can be of use.
    From my perspective – it is forcing businesses to find ways to be accountable and engage with their customers – whether they are legitimate or those focused on causes that truly do not relate to the business. For many businesses this is a new exercise that allows them to look at a new paradigm of open leadership – starting with customers first. Those complaining may not always get the response that they are leveraging and rightfully so – but it demonstrates to their customer community – a sense of open leadership and that the company is listening – and in turn that you as the customer can be heard.
    This can lead to those detractors becoming promoters of a business – whose policy is not to push and dictate their terms – but rather work together to find solutions and exchange ideas and opinions while always providing clarity to facts that may be incorrect, with all of options for noise now available to everyone. The delicate balance is to allow those that want to voice their concerns via social media as valid and important – while using those voices to make other channels for customer service better – for those that choose not to globally scream their complaints to the world- but want and deserve clear, simple solutions to their challenges in a timely manner.

  6. It’s also about equality. Do brands respond the same way to a person with 5 followers as they do to someone with 5000 followers. I believe that to be a true test of their mettle (as it were).

  7. I think like reality tv, global attention on customer service screw ups requires a constant upping of the oh ah, shock stakes. In other words when x billion are migrated to Twitter which let’s imagine can be conveniently voice activated from your car’s dashboard, the white noise will be deafening and everyone will therefore tune out.
    Right now the customer has a cow prod and is enjoying using it. And since many brands are truly bovine, they surely deserve this short window of pain.

  8. I was hanging on every word of this conversation. I appreciated the exploration of the concept of a social contract. I think all the principles are dead-on. Casual complainers vs. exploiters… the difference between facilitating social media lessons and being vindictive. I like the idea of a social concept.
    Does it have to be so black-and-white though? To me it seems more like a reservoir. You’ve built up a lot of trust with me Mitch. The reservoir is full. You could go on several full-on rants and still be ok in my books.

  9. Changing courses and directions works – for sure. Nothing is ever black and white and you can only gauge success based on how your audience and community reacts to it. I just get icky when I hear statements like, “do you know who I am?” or “do you know who reads my Blog?” That’s when you start abusing the community for your own gain (me thinks).

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