Monday, February 20, 2012

How To Effectively Complain Online

Complaint Department GrenadeImage via WikipediaBefore the option of the Internet the only way to complain to big companies was to write letters, go to the Better Business Bureau, or just tell everyone you know. You may have gotten really mad and wrote your state agency or even Washington.

Good news, those haphazard days of complaining are over, we now have the Internet to do our work. Consumer Reports, the consumer review magazine, says "Whether it's a slap happy review of your new flat-screen TV on Amazon or a scathing critique of a car dealer on Yelp or Facebook, there are plenty of online outlets where you can post your opinions. And companies are paying attention."

Today most websites have sections where customers can leave reviews of their products or services. Companies are hoping you will share your wonderful experience with them, but many people are writing about their dissatisfaction. Companies closely monitor these feedback pages and usually contact the dissatisfied customer to try to make things right. If you ever bought something on or and noticed the ever so important feedback comments, you can see how an online reputation is more important than a real world one.

Use Good Practices.

When complaining online whether it be a companies website or a consumers rights forum, the key to success is to be business like and not emotional. If you want to get results you should state your issue in a clear and succinct way. Using profanity and slurs to ridicule a company will not gain you any constructive attention. Convey your problem in a way where the company sees you as a valuable customer with a reasonable complaint. Companies don't want to look bad in front of other companies or potential customers. These companies know that your complaint is becoming part of the Internet record and will be available by anyone that does a search of the company in question.

When you post your complaint on the Internet and the business sees the unfavorable comments, it is possible for them to file lawsuits against the complaining parties. Even Consumer Reports has been sued for unfavorable reviews from company Sharper Image. Sharper Image lost the law suit. 
Consumer Reports said, " The suit was in response to a critical review of the company's Ionic Breeze Quadra air cleaner that appeared in the magazine. Sharper Image was required to pay $525,000 to cover Consumers Union's legal costs."

In many states, there are laws banning such lawsuits to protect the rights of the complaining parties. Mark Goldowitz, founder and president of the Public Participation Project and a lawyer who defends clients against SLAPP suits in California says, "No matter what the laws are in your state, consider the potential repercussions before you post critical or embarrassing comments."

Bottom line, get it right when complaining online. Remember whatever you post online will probably always be online.

Best Places to Get Started with Online Complaining

1. Try the biggest sites first to get the most exposure. Social media websites like Facebook or Twitter are good places to start. Most companies have a web presence and that's where you should start you effort. Mention the companies name and a brief comment about the problem.

2. Companies websites. Most all companies have a customer service or consumer section specifically for customer complaints. There you will find a place, either a comment section or a forum, where you're able to enter a description of your problem. Be polite, business like, and respectful when leaving comments. There is no faster way to get deleted than when a slur or profanity is present. Remember you are trying to get help, not make it worse.

3. Forums and Consumer Help Websites. Search online for your specific complaint. You may find many others have the same problem as you do. As you search you will find specific websites that deal with your special complaint. Try searching for terms like "-company- problems", "-company- lawsuits", or " -company- complaints".

Many places are available to start your online complaints.

  • AirlineComplaints.orgAirline-related complaints or suggestions for improvement. Includes airline contacts.
  • Amazon.comReviews and ratings of products and Amazon merchants.
  • Angie's List - Reviews and ratings of local services and health professionals. Pay site, though nonmembers can submit reports free.
  • ApartmentRatings.comMore than 1 million apartment reviews and ratings.
  • Avvo.comReviews and ratings of lawyers and doctors. Includes library of legal and medical topics.
  • Charity Navigator - Charity watchdog organization with user reviews and ratings of nonprofit organizations. Includes tips and donor resources.
  • CNET.comDiscussions of electronic products, services, and companies.
  • - Complaints about products, services, companies, and professionals.
  • ComplaintsBoard.comComplaints about products, services, companies, and professionals. Includes news and resources.
  • ConsumerAffairs.comReviews of products, services, companies, and professionals. Includes news and resources.
  • The ConsumeristReviews and complaints about products, services, and companies. Includes news and consumer tips. Site owned by Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.
  • Edmunds.comReviews and discussions of cars and car-related products and services. Includes dozens of subject-specific message boards.
  • Epinions.comRatings and reviews of products and services.
  • MeasuredUp.comReviews of companies and professionals. Includes tips and contacts.
  • My3cents.comReviews and complaints about products, services, and companies. Includes consumer tips.
  • PissedConsumer.comReviews and complaints about products, services, companies, and professionals. Includes consumer tips.
  • RateMDs.comReviews and ratings of doctors and dentists. Includes access to medical-board records and top 10 lists.
  • RipoffReport.comComplaints about services, companies, and professionals. Includes consumer tips.
  • TripAdvisor.comMore than 45 million reviews and ratings of hotels, restaurants, attractions, vacation rentals, cities and towns, and more.
  • TrustLink.orgA Better Business Bureau site with reviews and ratings of companies and professionals. Includes scam alerts.
  • Yelp.comReviews and ratings of local companies and professionals.

Remember your trying to accomplish something with your complaining, don't use the resources of the Internet to just blow off steam. If the business responds to your efforts and contacts you, be sure to reply. The company would not reply if it did not care about the customer. If things are worked out in a amicable way be sure to got back online and use the same effort you used in complaining to note that your issues have been addressed and are now satisfied.

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