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New Study Compares Major Brands Social Customer Service Skills [Infographic]

As a software analyst, I am constantly bombarded with emails from technology developers wanting me to review their product. These technologies come from all corners of the software spectrum, but almost every single pitch in the last year had one thing in common: they touted “new social media capabilities.”

More surprising was the overwhelming lack of vendors talking about social in the context of customer service. This came despite reports that as many as 73% of consumers use Facebook, Twitter and other platforms for customer support issues.

This juxtaposition had me wondering – does anyone have a handle yet on how to effectively provide support on Twitter? I assumed that if the answer was yes, it would be one of the nation’s top brands.  And thus, “The Great Social Customer Service Race” was born – a research project that analyzed the response rate and speed of 14 consumer brands on Twitter.

social media customer service

 

About the Race

Four Software Advice staff used their personal Twitter accounts to send customer service tweets to leading consumer brands in seven industries. Each company received one tweet per weekday for four consecutive weeks. During the first and third weeks, our employee participants used the brand’s Twitter name with an @ symbol.

The questions fell into five categories of tweets that should receive a response, according to social media best practices:

  1. Urgent, or I need help right this second
  2. Positive (“thank you!”)
  3. Negative
  4. A question from their FAQ page
  5. Technical, or needs more than one interaction to solve

Overall, the brands responded to just 14 percent of tweets we sent during the race. Sometimes these responses came in just a few minutes. Other times it took more than a day. Here’s a few best practices we learned from the project.

Related: Top 25 Social Media Statistics of 2012 That Will Blow Your Mind

 

Use Response Placeholders If The Answer Is Delayed

At one point during the race, Coca-Cola committed a huge error when it took them four days to respond to our question:social media customer service

“This is basically the same as not replying at all,” Anna Drennan, the marketing manager for Conversocial, told me. More than half of Twitter users expect a response within two hours of tweeting a company, according to a recent Oracle report.

Many social listening products can be integrated with help desk software so that if a high-priority ticket doesn’t receive a response in a certain amount of time, an alert pops up on the responding agents screen. If it still doesn’t receive a response, it is then rerouted. If an agents sees a message has been stalled, they should include a placeholder response like “@customername I am looking into this for you now. I will get back with you ASAP. Sorry for the delay! (-: >AF.”

 

Prioritize Messages With High Intent

It’s impossible to expect companies respond to everything. Some of these brands receive hundreds (or more) of tweets in a day. So it’s important companies have some method for automatically identifying high-priority tickets — those messages with important purchase intent, or risk of switching brands.

This is done through developing keyword identifiers, such as combinations of your brand name and “help,” “mad,” and “switching.” These combinations should cover both interactions where the @ symbol and Twitter handle are used, and others where the @ symbol isn’t used.  Consider this message that didn’t receive a response during the race:social media customer service

A thank you from a customer should also be rated as highly important. If your customers take the time to show their gratitude to you and their followers, you should take the time to thank them. McDonalds demonstrated their savvy in this regard. They responded to this tweet in less than 15 minutes:social media customer service

 

Don’t View Social In Silos

In our credit card group, MasterCard earned special recognition by capitalizing on an opportunity to market a customer service interaction. When one of our participants asked whether the credit card is accepted globally, the MasterCard team responded and re-tweeted her message:social media customer service

This demonstrates to MasterCard’s 30,600 followers that they listen and respond to their customers. The post was RT’d (re-tweeted) another 12 times and personally engaged one follower.

In another instance, the company used the customer service opportunity to pitch our Twitter participant a new product:social media customer service

Related: 8 Experts Give Advice For 2013 Social media Strategy

 

Actually Answer Their Question

There was one interaction during the race that was particularly aggravating as a consumer. First of all, it wasn’t immediately clear this person was from McDonald’s, and she didn’t provide a good answer to our problem:

social media customer service

If she really wanted to wow and delight the customer, she could have asked where our office is located and provided the nearest store’s address, phone number, and manager’s name–or gone further, and contacted the manager herself. She could have also addressed at least some of the questions, if even just to say, “Yes, some stores can do that.”

The same applies to providing links in a response. Links are great – customers love sharing them – but only if they are extremely relevant to the question. This saves your rep time explaining something that’s already detailed on an FAQ page or in a video, blog or other webpage and will also save you a lot of email stress at work.

Here’s two examples of links done the right way:social media customer service

What best practices does your team abide by when providing customer service on Twitter? Join the conversation by commenting here.

 

About ashleyverrill

Ashley Verrill is a market analyst at Software Advice. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor's degree in journalism.