12 Most Civil Ways to Complain Online
Janet Fouts has written a wonderful post urging us to avoid using social media as a weapon and it got me to thinking about our new powers and their misuse.
Social media has empowered us as individual consumers like never before. With this empowerment comes the realization that our online voices, both individually and collectively, can bring harm.
We need to be mindful of how we use our newfound power because with power comes added responsibility — to be civil and do no harm, to avoid bullying and to give people their day in court. These are values that inform our civil society and should also inform our online behaviour.
But sometimes, things just don’t go right out there. The food is terrible. The product arrives broken. The customer service person is insulting. Or the airline busts the custom-made guitar you need for your next gig. Every day, there are a host of legitimate grievances.
Here are 12 suggestions of the most civil ways to complain online when confronted with this wrong-doing:
1. Never send email when you’re angry
2. Write down all the details
Now that you’re breathing, start by drafting your complaint in as much detail as you can remember. Then, sleep on it. When you awake, review your comments and see how they feel in the light of day. Have you been reasonable, rational and fair-minded? Try not to rant.
3. Know what you want
Decide what consideration you expect to receive. Do you just want a sympathetic hearing or do you want/need an apology? Do you want to be credited a payment? Or do you expect all of the above AND a brand new guitar?
4. Put it in writing
Deliver your complaint in writing via a direct channel supported by the party that aggrieved you. Send an email. Fill out a web form. Or pick up the phone and find out where you should send your written complaint.
5. Give fair hearing
Give the party you’re complaining to a chance to respond and resolve your issue. Certainly, if you’re at a restaurant or service business and you have a serious complaint, you should raise it immediately with a manager. If you’ve presented your complaint respectfully and reasonably, most businesses or organizations would have every reason to fix the problem to your satisfaction. Escalate internally, if required, before going public.
6. Going public
If you fail to reach a resolution to this point, try going public. Write a blog post and share it. Start a discussion online about your experience and see how common it is. By all means, make sure the party you’re complaining to knows about your online activities.
7. Share your experience
Like their Facebook page and post a link to your blog post. Add an honest review on sites like Yelp or TripAdvisor or Urbanspoon and comment on others with similar issues. Add a “tip” on Foursquare (i.e., “avoid the mussels”). Don’t forget to update your review if and when you get a satisfactory resolution.
8. Avoid “mob” mentality
As intriguing as flash mobs may be as artistic and cultural expressions, mob mentality usually finds itself at odds with civil society. People end up doing dumb things and others get hurt.
9. Don’t be a bully
Avoid shouting and threatening, but be determined and firm. Indeed, avoid any tendency to use your social media clout as a weapon.
10. Harness your creativity
If you have it in you, try writing a song, making a video, or messing with a logo. There’s nothing like some sardonic humor to help you go viral.
11. Complain because you love a brand and want to make it better
Identifying problems, proposing solutions and organizing for change is an act of caring. If you don’t care, say it with your wallet.
12. Let it go
Sometimes, in the end, you just need to move on. Live and learn. Life is too short to be a troll.
Featured image courtesy of Denis Dervisevic licensed via Creative Commons.