Will Social Media Help Kill Bad Customer Service?

By Ryan Holmes | 2 years ago | No Comments

Photo by nicointokio.
Photo by nicointokio.

This post was originally published by HootSuite CEO Ryan Holmes on the LinkedIn Influencer blog.
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“Don’t fly with @British_Airways. They can’t keep track of your luggage,” read the angry 60-character Tweet that marked the beginning of a Chicago-based businessman’s two-day Twitter tirade against the major airline early last week. His actions, it turns out, were pretty revolutionary—a blast of fuel to the fire under a corporate world that isn’t adapting quickly enough to new trends in customer service.


What was so remarkable about Hasad Syed’s now-famous Twitter rant against British Airways wasn’t that it involved a frustrated customer calling out a big corporation on social media. (That’s been done thousands, if not millions, of times already by upset clients the world over.)

It was that Syed dished out over $1000 for the tweets, using Twitter’s self-serve promoted tweet platform—the first time a regular person, not a business, has used the service in this way.

And it paid off: big time.

Within hours of sending out the first “promoted complaint” from his personal Twitter account, Syed and his father had received a personal apology from the airline. Their lost luggage was recovered promptly. Meanwhile, major tech news outlets had picked the story up, and over the next couple of days Syed’s tweets literally went viral, being seen not only by tens of thousands of people on Twitter but by many thousands more, as the story was retold by mainstream media sources like TIME and the BBC.

The lesson? Businesses who don’t want to risk getting scorched by large-scale social media mishaps like these are going to have to take a close look at their online customer support strategies—quickly.

After all, Syed’s tale is just the tip of the iceberg in a wave of change that is already sweeping across customer service departments of major corporations around the world. Thanks to increased channels of communication via social networks like Facebook and Twitter, clients are making themselves heard by brands more than ever before. Large corporations who want to stay ahead of the curve in customer satisfaction and avoid major PR disasters must have ample social media resources to ensure that they’re able to respond to unhappy clients quickly and effectively. In 2011 for example, KLM (KLM Royal Dutch Airlines) drew some attention when became one of the world’s first airlines to offer 24-7 customer support on social media. Two years later, KLM sees four times the level of client-driven engagement of some of its main competitors on its Facebook page—proof that savvy customers will migrate to channels that are faster and more responsive to their queries and feedback.


There is simply no time for companies to kick back and ignore the revolution. Bigger change is looming. Even dissatisfied customers who can’t afford $1000 each time they want to voice a complaint have already started forming groups online, on platforms that are specifically being developed to help them get their voices heard. On a service like Nevahold for example, people can rally together to get their gripe heard by big companies through the power of numbers—they compose a group “shout,” that can be shared through social media accounts. And what’s stopping more others from gathering on sites like Kickstarter to crowdsource funds for promoted social media complaints? Anything is possible, as we saw last week.

Fading away are the days of waiting in long lineups or on clogged up customer support phone lines to get what we want from big companies who just don’t seem to care about the little guy. Thanks to social media and constantly evolving technologies, people are finding new ways to speak out. And whether they’re willing to pay big bucks or not, Syed’s grassroots campaign is just a sign of what’s to come, as a more wide-scale bottoms-up conversation inevitably develops between consumers and brands.

What is the worst customer experience you’ve ever had? How much would you pay to make it heard?

For more social media insight and to learn more about my company, follow HootSuite on LinkedIn.

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Michael scott2
Michael scott2 5pts

The funny thing about this post is that Hootsuite has some of the worst customer service I have ever experienced because of a reliance on social media channels. Instead of letting customers quietly and quickly resolve issues using email, you force your paying customers to rant on Facebook.

Hootsuite_Help_Desk moderator 5pts

@Michael scott2 Hey there!

Thank you for reaching out to the Hootsuite Team via our Blog. My name is Gary and I'd be happy to clarify the methods in which we are available to assist. 

Great feedback in regards to email support. As in line with our desires to provide top-tier support, our preferred method of support is Twitter or Facebook for quick issues, and email/tickets for more in-depth issues. We have recently added Live Chat support as an option for our users as well. 

For any issues on Facebook or Twitter that require more in-depth assistance, we are always happy to open up an email support ticket to assist further. 

Hootsuite Pro users even have the ability to create tickets right from their own Hootsuite Dashboard. By clicking on the Question Mark on the left side followed by "Help Desk" you will be redirected to the Hootsuite Help Desk page. 

As long as you are still signed into your Hootsuite Pro account you can scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see two options. One to submit a ticket and one to check an existing ticket. By choosing Submit a Ticket you will create an email ticket and one of our Customer Advocates will reach out to you over email to assist. 

I hope this helps to clarify the methods in which we are available to help! 

Kind regards, 

Gary | @HootSuite_Help | HootSuite Help Desk - http://ow.ly/dBnBz

CWill 5pts

This has helped me with Comcast several times!!!

OULawStudent 5pts

A few days ago I tweeted about the diabolical customer service I experienced after placing my first order with a company. They didn't tweet back but, instead, one of their Directors sent a letter threatening me with an injunction, which I have just tweeted about. I think his ego might be getting in the way of good practice. This company definitely is not ready for social media!  Twitter has not helped me so far with this issue, but it must be doing the company a lot of damage.

OULawStudent 5pts

With legal action pending, it would be inappropriate to disclose the name of the company at this time.

OULawStudent 5pts

Certainly. I sent you a tweet on 15/11 asking if I may DM you and left a message on your voicemail.

AmandaHofland 5pts

When I had a major issue with a local company and their terrible customer service, I complained on their Facebook wall, but they just deleted it. They don't have a Twitter either, do I couldn't tag them in a Tweet.

BluesBro1 5pts

I should have done that when United broke my guitar and told me that it was because my brand new guitar case with fragile stickers all over it, was defective. It wasn't.

seanrblackburn 5pts

When you used to be able to post directly to brands Facebook "walls" (prior to timeline) I, after waiting for 2 hours on hold with Sprint ranted on their page. I immediately had a response and a new number to call for a rep that picked up within the first minute of my call.

I think its a huge reason Facebook went to timeline for brands and my guess would be that Twitter and other social media sites will learn how to tweak their system to protect these large brands like B.Airways who power their company through the ad revenue they spend with those social media companies.

eric_dwhite 5pts

The worst customer service experience I've had recently was with an east coast clothing boutique that ignored my queries about a shirt I ordered and never received. They even followed me back on Twitter, generally a sign they're about to start DMing you. Nope!

Though the experience was really... REALLY bad, I don't think I'd be willing to pay $1000 to make it better. If it were a different circumstance though and a different product, I might consider spending cash on a promoted tweet. Just depends on what we're talking about!

Travis Miller
Travis Miller 5pts

This article really has me thinking this morning! :)  A couple things in particular...

1. CS and marketing departments are going to be going through a change and I am curious how it will play out. I believe, many people tend to voice negative opinions much more than positive ones. With social CS a few people with negative opinions can have a strong bearing on a company's brand, I am not sure if this is a good or bad thing however. Take a look at the Diablo 3 metacritic, http://ow.ly/pKWFR, 3.8 out of 10 user reviews with 3000 negative and 1000 positive, however Diablo 3 sold millions of copies and, according to this http://ow.ly/pKWIr, in March, had 3 million players a month. I would hazard to guess most of those people enjoy the game, yet only a very small portion posted this on metacritic. Given Diablo was just released on console and an expansion is coming out the game must be doing well and 3.8 out of 10 seems like an unrealistically low score

Social media has given us all a voice, however it is interesting most of the time, many of us, only use that voice negatively. Myself included, I have, in the past, posted negative reviews on products, but I don't think I have ever posted a positive review on any. I could be the minority, but I doubt it :)

2. The story about Hasad Syed reminds me a lot about this recent Malcolm Gladwell talk on David and Goliath, http://ow.ly/pKWLx. We like to think of Mr. Syed as the underdog and BA as the evil, powerful corporate entity, but as talk says, I am not so sure who is the underdog here. With social media individuals have a lot of power and like they say, "With great power, comes great responsibility". Corporations have had many years of experience wielding power, and many have checks and balances in place. Again, it will be interesting to see how things change and evolve with all of us having relatively easy access to power.