Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) used to complain, get answers

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Social media isn't just used to share pictures and posts anymore. More and more people are turning to sites like Facebook and Twitter to voice their complaints about products and services—and are often getting answers.

When Susie Schiappa washes her clothes, they usually come out dirty if she doesn't take them out right away.

"I have little rust spots all over two Ralph Lauren shirts," she says.

After the stained shirts started to pile up, Schiappa discovered that her washer had rust around the little holes that allow the water to pour in. When Whirlpool told her that her washer was out of warranty, Schiappa turned to social media.

"I was a little bit annoyed with the response," she says, "so I went on Facebook and I posted ‘Don't buy a Whirlpool washer because my drum is rusting.' "

Whirlpool heard Schiappa's complaint and offered her a free drum, although she still had to pay for the labor. It wasn't the answer she wanted, because the labor can be costly, but she says she'll still use social media next time she has an issue.

"Complain, complain, complain," she says. "If you're not happy, complain."

Brian Sommer teaches business classes at Lynn University. He says many companies are responding to social media complaints, while others are doing their best to adapt.

"Their brand, their message, their reputation is very important to them," Sommer says. "They have to spend the time and effort to make sure that customers are satisfied with their products and services."

He cautions that it may not always work especially as more people complain online.

"It becomes very, very crowded on the airwaves and it's hard to disseminate what do you take seriously?" Sommer explained.

It's another option to add to your toolbox to get action.

There is a right way and wrong way to complain. Make sure you take the emotion of your problem. Don't rant and rave when you first call or write the company. Be nice, and talk in a calm voice. I know this is hard to do sometimes, but it's essential to getting action.

The other key is to find the person who can solve your problem. If you are calling, ask for the office of the president. That phrase will often get you to the right person who can actually help you.

Also, do your homework. Google company executives and email them. They'll often pass your complaint onto a supervisor who will make you a satisfied customer or at least address your concerns. 

Also, many companies have online chats for customer service. It might be worth a try rather than sitting on hold and getting passed around on the phone. This also establishes a paper trail of contacting the company with no resolution. Just copy your chat when you are done and save it in a document on your computer.

Finally, empower the company. Make it seem like you are giving them a chance to make it right before you turn them into the state or federal agency that regulates them or a consumer agency for help.

Have a great trick that's worked for you? Share it below.

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