Which is worse? A complaint via E-Mail or complaint via Twitter?

I asked this question on Twitter last night and it was a question to which I received some great responses to. In my opinion Twitter is much worse as the complaint is there for all to see and seems as though Twitter will have a much bigger impact on a company/brand than a complaint received via e-mail. An incoming complaint via e-mail can be kept within the four walls of a business where as a single Tweet published on Twitter is there for many to see and also exposes businesses weak points and lack of transparency.

However, a single tweet doesn’t need to come from another corporate, it can come from a single person (Average Joe) who probably only spends a small percentage compared to the big customer who spends millions.

Who has more power?

For example, Company A spends £50k a year with your business and complains about a delivery via e-mail. No worries, you can swiftly deal with this one and depending on who received the complaint get it rectified quick time. No-one needs to know and can then be filed away in the round cabinet under your desk afterwards.
Meanwhile, Average Joe who only spends £100 a year complains about a delivery via Twitter and has a social following of 5000 people. They all see this complaint. Two of his followers retweet his complaint and they also have a combined following of 10,000 people who some follow your company. Does this influence their choice of supplier? Does this impact those who are checking you out? Hmmmm……
What is important is that companies on Twitter should be listening to all brand mentions and then actioning complaints via Twitter too so that people can see that you are responding and responding fast. A couple of points raised below highlight this….listening and visibly responding.

Which is worse? Your thoughts……

Here are some replies from some great followers:@michelehinojosa: That’s why I’m surprised that more companies don’t do the bare minimum in social to protect their reputation.
@PauleyCreative: Twitter, esp if you’re not listening!
@StrangeLoops: If you don’t know how to handle customer complaints then it Twitter can be bad thing, otherwise it will help spread w-o-m
@lawweb: Public can see complaint here, but they can also see response
@hgacreative: It’s got to be via Twitter. The complaint is exposed to a lot of people as opposed to e-mail.
@michelehinojosa:  I argue Twitter. More public. Plus I seem to actually get a response when I tweet, and nuthin’ when I write…
@AshishVij: i weigh both equally – only difference is channel, but both should be carefully handled.
@PauleyCreative: Statistics suggest… the complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business.
@garyr0binson: The impact of a tweet can be much worse. But if company ignores social conversation then unless BIG problem. they’ll never hear of it & will die away. Bit of a ‘tree falling over in empty woods’ situ. Wrong way to be IMHO
@PeterGould83: Twitter..but depends on how it’s handled! but I also think a well handled complaint on Twitter can actually be turned into a positive.
@usujason: wow…great question. In my experience, complaints via email get ignored, not sure why. Twitter also gives you the opportunity to expose your transparency or lack there of.

4 thoughts on “Which is worse? A complaint via E-Mail or complaint via Twitter?

  1. Lawrence

    Great post! One other thing that occurred to me is that there’s more than one type of complaint. I was initially thinking of a legitimate one which the company would respond to and resolve. But what about one which couldn’t be resolved so easily – customer had broken their side of agreement, but wasn’t prepared to back down? Both options available to the company – sticking to their guns or backing down wouldn’t do them many favours if broadcast over social media…

  2. Rudi Shumpert

    I would have to say the worse one would be neither. The customer who becomes so frustrated that they just leave and take their business elsewhere without giving you any clues on what went wrong and what might be able to be done to fix it.


  3. Anonymous

    Spot on… great topic! Can also apply to people who target small business using google questions and facebook groups. Its essentially slander / defamation and costs so much to sort out!

    If your dealing with people who won’t reply to e-mail or letter then go for it but people who do this first time should be shot!

  4. Su Butcher

    Its a good question. For the company, a complaint via email can be easier to handle (assuming they have a process of managing complaints to wherever they come to in the team) because it is private.
    However a complaint via twitter can be turned to your advantage.
    The real issue here is whether the company is listening at all, and what their attitude to customer service is. Not all unhappy customers are legitimate, but they all have a voice online. If I’m looking at a new supplier I always look at their reviews and how their social accounts engage with customers. Complaints from years back are not difficult to find.
    Every construction product company should have a triage system to help their social media operatives and other staff (who may also come across complaints online) deal with complaints. This can help them make the right decision, share the task of managing complaints and make sure they act in the way the company needs, reflecting the company ethos. Marketing is now an executive task – everyone has a role in it.

    I’ve come across many product companies who prefer to ignore complaints online in the hope they will go away, or even deal with them offline without responding online. Neither of these tactics work all the time, and B2C stories over the years tell us that eventually you’ll end up with egg on your face. People complain on twitter for a reason – it works! Time for us to accept this and deal with it.


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