People don't fill out comment cards anymore. They don't send nasty emails to the complaint department. They go on Twitter and raise hell in 140 characters or less. Social media sites like Twitter are increasingly becoming the modern day complaint department, and for good reason - complaining on Twitter often gets immediate results. It's also faster than sending an email and it's way more public. 

Whether the complaints are justified or not, every online store can be a victim of public scorning on Twitter. As an ecommerce merchant you need to start thinking of Twitter as a public complaint department. The secret to running a successful Twitter complaint department is to give awesome customer service. Here's where to start: 

1. Monitor All Brand Mentions on Twitter

This isn't as scary as it sounds and it shouldn't inspire images from Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. Setting up a proper social media monitoring service will pay enormous dividends. In a perfect world, all of your customers will use your @Twitter username in tweets about you. That way, they'll pop up in your 'interactions' window. Example, if someone includes @Shopify in a tweet, it will pop up on our radar. Easy. Unfortunately, not everyone links to your Twitter account with an @ symbol so if you don't have a good monitoring service you could be missing out on a ton of important conversations. 

One of the best social media dashboards out there is HootSuite. It's an easy to use and powerful tool that will help monitor Twitter along with all the other social media sites. HootSuite offers a free plan that should cover all your bases, but if you need further functionality you can upgrade to their professional account for $5.99 a month. Once you're set up you can schedule tweets, track brand mentions, analyze Twitter traffic, and sleep easy knowing what people are saying behind your back. 

2. Respond With Exceptional Customer Service

It's important to respond to every direct interaction on Twitter. Treat Twitter just like an ordinary conversation - if someone asks you a question, you need to answer. If they give you a compliment, you need to say thank you. If they make a complaint, you need to address their concern. 

It may be tempting to ignore a negative tweet and hope it'll just go away, but it probably won't. Unless the complaint is absolutely ridiculous it's always best to respond in a friendly and sincere way. A simple message along the lines of "I'm sorry to hear you're not fully satisfied. Is there anything we can help with?” can get the ball rolling as you start up a dialogue. 

Feel free to ask the customer to Direct Message you with their email so you can send a proper response. It can be difficult to properly deal with an issue in 140 characters or less so it's okay to politely steer the conversation away from Twitter and toward email or the phone.  

Exceptional customer service isn't confined to one channel - you should provide service through all your social media sites, phone, email, or wherever else the customer wants to voice a complaint or raise a concern. But just because the conversation starts on Twitter (or anywhere else) doesn't mean it needs to stay there. For each specific issue you should decide what the best method of communication is - more often than not it will be email or telephone. 

Also check out our top 5 social media mistakes that entrepreneurs make, and our list of 50 'must follow' Twitter accounts for online store owners.