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What is the Costa ignoring complaints on Twitter?

Posted by Alex Perryman on 7th December 2012

There are firm statistics available to support the, by now well-understood, notion that, when it comes to customer service on Twitter, responsiveness equals positive results.

Twitter is a public medium, and it is vital for brands to be seen to be responding quickly, not only in order to satisfy the customer who has complained, but in order to ensure that you’re not leaving unresolved any threads of conversation that the Twittering Classes might later pick up on.

Conversely, the simple act of acknowledging a customer’s concern; that their complaint is being dealt with, is frequently enough to cause that individual to ratchet-down their ire.

Though not always…

Most social media professionals recognise that when a customer is simply informed that their complaint is being looked into within one hour, as opposed to being left hanging, a reduction in follow-on complaints occurs. By way of contrast, ignored complaints can lead to escalation and brand-damage.

This makes it all the more surprising that, as The Drum observed last year, 71% of companies don’t respond to complaints via Twitter at all, (although I suspect this number has probably dropped dramatically since the Maritz Research survey in question was conducted last year). Nearly 90% of people claim they would be very appreciative of a direct reply to any complaint tweeted.

As a bit of anecdotal proof of this, weeks ago I was sauntering through Waterloo station at 7am, only to find that my regular coffee bar had been turned into a smaller, less pleasant ‘express’ outlet, (presumably to facilitate faster throughput of customers. The seating had all-but gone, and I experienced some unusually poor customer service.

Good, but do you have anything more wendy-house sized? And can you fill it with angry Eastern Europeans?

Passive-aggressive sod that I am, rather than confront them directly about it, I found myself Tweeting Costa’s main Twitter handle to make a complaint half an hour later. And sure enough, not only did they respond quickly to issue a Twitter and an email apology, but they even sent me a £5 gift voucher. Hey presto, problem solved!

I’m pretty-sure Twitter-complaints-responsiveness has got considerably better in the last year, and I suspect this has a lot to do with the public nature of Twitter. Whereas complaining to an individual in a call centre is likely to get you nothing more than an earful of indifference from a Manchester-based wage-slave, complaints on Twitter are the modern equivalent of the newspaper complaints page; only more immediate. As The Guardian recently noted, Twitter is now fast becoming one of the most effective ways to get your complaints dealt with quickly, and will very often result in problems being solved considerably quicker than they would via a call centre.

Alex Perryman

Alex joined Wildfire in 2007. He is renowned for his ability to pick up complex technologies and new industries extremely quickly.