Companies from rail operators to superstores are being caught up in Twitter storms but there is a good way – and a bad way – to deal with angry customers There was plenty for rail passengers to be #angry about on Tuesday, with social media channels buzzing with complaints as the biggest rise in rail fares since 2013 kicked in. But come the end of the day Virgin Trains was apologising not for cancelled trains, overcrowded carriages or rocketing fares – but for being sexist on Twitter after a customer complaint went viral. Angry customers used to vent their fury with a letter to the company or an argument with an anonymous call centre worker, but Twitter is now a customer service megaphone where a careless word or tweet can generate a consumer backlash with the potential to inflict real damage on sales. “Social media is a minefield for brands,” says Allyson Stewart-Allen, chief executive of brand consultancy International Marketing Partners. “But they have to be on it because they are being talked about. They have to be part of the conversation.” With Twitter and Facebook being used for both marketing and customer service these days it can be an uncomfortable ride for companies when the two world’s collide. Tweet and tell: turning Twitter into complaints megaphone

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