Strong opinions, weakly held

Customers, not extortionists

These days, if you want attentive customer service from most companies, the most direct route is to complain about the company on Twitter in such a way that your tweet shows up in the company’s mentions. It doesn’t matter whether your cable is working poorly, you had problems rebooking a flight, or your iPhone app didn’t work as well as you expected, Twitter is the place to seek relief.

This is a problem, mostly for the companies people are complaining about. They’re teaching their customers that the only way to get responsive customer service is to embarrass them publicly. What these companies fear most is that a complaint on Twitter will inspire an avalanche of “me too” retweets and responses that ultimately has a measurable negative impact on their business. That gives every customer who happens to be on Twitter the opportunity to be an amateur extortionist.

Here’s the thing, though. I don’t want to have to threaten a company to get decent customer service. If that’s what it takes, I don’t want to do business with the company at all. This is on my mind, of course, because there’s a company out there that I am having a bad customer service experience with, and I’m frustrated by the fact that griping about it on Twitter would almost certainly make it better.

What I’ve done instead is look at the company’s replies on Twitter to see what they suggest to other people who go to Twitter with their complaints, and follow those instructions. We’ll see how it works out.


  1. I don’t want to have to threaten a company to get decent customer service.

    A thousand times this. Public abuse shaming contacts should be my last option, not my best one.

  2. I do it old school. Write an email to the owner to complain. If the owner doesn’t have a public email address listed on the site, but there’s a mailing address, I send a letter. I learned this from my granny – she complained once about a problem with a food product (a one-time problem, not a systemic problem), sent a letter to the president of the company, and received a huge box of the company’s products as an apology.

    This scheme has worked for me as well, basically same results. Company replaces product + extras.

    I also send email/letters to owners of companies that I am ecstatic about, but for some reason can’t use the product. In one case, it was a piece of software that I just couldn’t justify buying, because of the cost. The owner offered me a substantial discount of the product, and they really won on that deal. I’ve been $$$ upgrading it over the years – they only missed out on a bit of money for the initial purchase.

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