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December 12, 2019 - 4:00 am

People who experience lousy customer service would be better served by putting down their telephones and taking their complaints online.

Surveys for the past 40 years show only about one in five people is consistently satisfied with customer service. More and more, people are posting complaints on places like Twitter and Facebook, where they're not placed on hold or banished to automated phone purgatory. Consumer Reports has published an article about the topic. One piece of advice is to exercise a little restraint. 

"If you blow your stack, if you're rude, if you exaggerate the problem, if you make an unreasonable demand of them, we would advise people to be reasonable, to stick to the facts, to not get emotional," said Kevin Doyle, Consumer Reports executive editor and author of the article.

Big organizations are staffing up departments with employees who watch their social media accounts. Companies do not want negative comments lingering where others can see them, so they tend to respond promptly.

"Always make sure that you're dealing with a verified account," Doyle said. "They'll be a check mark on Facebook or Twitter, so you can know for certain that you're dealing with the company you think you're dealing with."

Consumers should never provide personal information, like credit card numbers, on social media, even if the account is verified.

Doyle knew of one woman who posted a complaint on a tweet while she was waiting on hold with the same company. Her problem was resolved in about 12 minutes, long before anyone answered the phone.

The social media method is more reliable than calling on the telephone, but it is not a magic bullet, Doyle said. Some people say they get swift responses online, but the follow-up leaves them disappointed.

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