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Chances are, everyone reading this has been frustrated by a disappointing experience with a business at some point in their lives. Though in the past, we might have complained to family and friends, vented at customer support reps, or even written angry letters, today we're far more likely to turn to Twitter or Facebook.
Social media makes it easier than ever to make our frustrations public — and for those frustrations to be read, shared, and favorited by many others. This kind of negative buzz can be a problem for any business, but it's perhaps worst for airlines, where customers stuck at the airport may not have access to ordinary support channels and take to complaining via their smartphones when they have nothing to do beyond waiting out an extended layover.
But as we've turned to social channels to voice our complaints, businesses – especially airlines, who can bear the brunt of complaints — have followed, which means a complaint on Twitter could get a faster response than calling or waiting in line for a support rep. A recent study by Skift rates American Airlines as the speediest social responder amongst airlines, getting back to customers in just 12 minutes. JetBlue comes in second with 15 minutes and Indian airline IndiGo rates third at 16 minutes. Meanwhile, Consumerist points out that Frontier has the longest response time, checking in at 182 minutes. And somewhat surprisingly, Virgin America averages 139 minutes.
For extra social functionality, Airline KLM has gone above and beyond by providing anxious customers with an expected wait time for answers listed on both Twitter and Facebook — and even when the time creeps up over an hour, it's still a lot less frustrating than waiting on hold. KLM also lets you pay for flights and upgrades via social, which sends you to the secure KLM website and then confirms via direct message.
Snappy response times could mean those Twitter complaints might actually be useful — solving problems a lot more quickly than if you resorted to traditional support methods. And while airlines are leading the way in social support, you'll find other big businesses following suit. Microsoft's Xbox team holds a Guinness World Record as the most responsive brand on Twitter with an average response time of 2 minutes and 42 seconds to thousands of daily queries — but you'll also see big companies like Nike, UPS, Verizon, Lowe's, T-Mobile, and more racing to solve customer problems before they turn into retweeted PR nightmares.
The best businesses doing social support will jump in quickly — even if you didn't tweet directly at them — to find out more information and offer solutions to whatever problem you're having. On the other hand, the worst businesses — like, say, an airline overwhelmed by customer support requests during a winter storm — may take days to get back to you, by which point your problem has probably been resolved one way or another.
Still, whatever your conundrum, it can't hurt to send out a tweet about it. At best, you might find it to be a shortcut to a customer support fix and at worst you'll at least have a chance to vent your frustration. Readers, do you ever turn to Twitter with a customer service issue? What brands and retailers are the best on Twitter? Which are the worst? Let us know in the comments below. And while you're at it, did you know that DealNews is on Twitter?