Wednesday August 27, 2014





Complaints get traction in social media

The days of companies ignoring justified customer complaints knowing they’ll just fall on deaf ears may well be over.

Media tend to shy away from consumer complaint stories — most of them tend to end up where one person points fingers with a single complaint about another, who then points back and somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

However, when there are many voices echoing the same complaint, for instance taking issue with some facet of a large company’s policy, it tends to take on a life of its own.

That is what happened, with a bit of a twist, this week when a customer blasted Air Canada for not allowing him to transfer his travel voucher to his wife because she had a different last name.

The twist was that Chris Turner used the very public Twitter to highlight his displeasure with the policy and the back and forth that ensued between him and the airline was up for all to see, retweeted by many with others adding their own thoughts.

The story eventually took on such a life of its own it was picked up by more traditional media, with the end result that Turner got his voucher and said that the airline was planning to change its policy.

The incident demonstrates how our much more connected world brings added pressure to businesses offering services to the public and forces a greater accountability.

With the added power of social media tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, people gain a powerful platform to air their grievances.

Many will gain no traction but others, like Turner’s case, will resonate enough to effect positive change.

One of the first examples of someone taking his grievance to a broader audience via social media was Canadian musician Dave Carroll, who posted a protest video on YouTube in 2009 after United Airlines broke his guitar in 2008 and refused compensation for months.

The video, United Breaks Guitars, which now has 13.6 million views, became a public relations disaster for the airline.

Like all good things, however, we wonder at what point social media will become so saturated with such grumbles that it reaches a boy-who-cried-wolf point and no one pays attention any more.

In the meantime, however, we predict a lot more consumer complaints to drive change on dusty customer policies via the power of social media.


We Say editorials represent the viewpoint of The Daily News and are written by publisher Tim Shoults, city editor Tracy Gilchrist, or associate news editors Dan Spark and Mark Rogers.




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