It used to be, if someone had a complaint about a business, they’d have little recourse.

Sure, they could go to the Better Business Bureau and lodge a complaint. Some TV stations and newspapers had consumer advocates who would shame companies into doing the right thing.

But unless you were one of the lucky ones whose complaint got some airtime or ink, you would be lucky to be able to spread the word beyond your immediate circle of friends.

For the consumer, the age of instant information – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, et al – is a boon. After unsuccessfully trying to get United Airlines to replace the guitar their baggage handlers smashed, Dave Carroll even got a career boost out of the videos he posted to YouTube that became a viral sensation.

At BlogWorld Expo in New York last month, more than one panel discussed the phenomenon of people complaining publicly on Twitter and Facebook before even reaching out to customer service. Fact is, it’s easier. And, frankly, anyone who’s ever dealt with customer service for a large company probably thinks they’ll get a response faster that way than if they went through regular channels.

A friend of mine, Rich Becker, had a problem with a charge from Budget Car Rental and tried to go through relatively traditional channels first. He’s a public relations and marketing professional and knew that taking to the Internet first was the equivalent of going nuclear, so he tried to resolve his issues amicably. But it wasn’t until he did start tweeting about the problem that anyone from Budget got on the ball and tried to take care of things.

Fact is, if your business is not active online and isn’t continually monitoring brand mentions, you can find your (hopefully good) name smeared almost beyond repair. It was with that in mind that I read this infographic from our friends at ZenDesk on how to recover from a customer service fiasco online:

How about you? What are your experiences with online customer service, either as a consumer or as a business?

Heart image used under Creative Commons license, by AngelaArcher.com on Flickr

Written by Guest Post