According to the Acquity Group’s December 2012 Brand Ecommerce Audit, 71% of big brands are still leaving customer tweets unanswered. The study examined 50 of the United States’ best-known retailers highlighted in Interbrand’s Best Retail Brands 2012 report including Wal-Mart, Target, Best Buy, Nordstrom, Urban Outfitters, GameStop and more for their multichannel customer service responsiveness. The overall results for Twitter were hugely disappointing.
The report showed that while 90% of the 50 big brands are active on Twitter, only 29% currently respond to customer tweets on this highly-visible channel. Facebook customer response numbers were only slightly higher, with Pinterest and Instagram surprisingly posting the highest customer engagement percentages.
Of the Top 50 brands that had Pinterest accounts, 70% were engaging with their customers on this channel. For those brands with Instagram, 80% were responding to customers, which begs the question: is it that brands can’t scale their social customer service to match Twitter and Facebook’s volume, or do they simply prefer to engage with customers when the conversations are positive?
No matter – customer conversations on high-volume channels like Facebook and Twitter will only continue to grow, and social customers will only complain more, and more vehemently, if their questions go answered.
A recent survey done by Social Habit found that 32% of social media customers expect a response to their tweet or question to a brand in less than 30 minutes, and 42% expect a response within the hour regardless of the day or time. An infographic from Social Media Influence shows some big brands’ current social activity and response times. For instance, Wal-Mart response times average an hour and a half but they only respond to 7% of inquiries on Twitter, while Nordstrom responds in approximately two hours, but they respond to 92% of customer tweets.
The disparity between major brands is surprising, especially since social media has been part of the customer service conversation going on almost three years, and given the high-profile and well-publicized social customer service fails suffered in the past by other major brands.
How can more large organizations break their bad habit of ignoring customers on Twitter?
- Listen up. Whether using a free tool or a customer service solution for social media that integrates with other customer service processes, a company’s reputation is becoming increasingly staked on its social responsiveness or lack thereof.Companies need to be more and more aware that their social media platforms are two-way conversation channels, and that conversations usually begin at the follower or customer’s convenience, which is why dedicated real-time monitoring is so important.In addition, studies have shown that many complainants on social media usually post or Tweet because they have been recently frustrated or disappointed by the lack of response on another customer channel, which makes highly visible social media channels the venue where the customer relationship is at a make or break level. And unlike Facebook, it is very difficult if not impossible to delete a negative tweet made by an individual about your brand.
- Create a dedicated Twitter support handle. A study by WaveMetrix shows that a dedicated Twitter support handle can help deflect negativity from your brand’s main Twitter handle. Brands without a dedicated customer service handle see an average of 17% negative customer posts on their main page. Brands with a dedicated, separate customer service handle see only an average of 1% complaints.
- Try to answer every valid customer tweet, no matter how many followers the individual has. Social media influencers with a high number of Twitter followers do matter a great deal, but an organization should make an effort to reply to every customer tweet. Every customer matters and is valuable.
- Deliver a consistent message. Ensure the tone of your social persona is consistent, kind and personable. Language should not be overly formal, and if the message cannot answer a follower’s question or complaint in a single tweet, the conversation should move to a direct message or directing the customer to a channel that allows for a more in-depth conversation instead of engaging in public-facing back and forth. Many companies that successfully use Twitter for customer service have a standard 140-character-or-less response to questions or complaints, so that they can answer tweets quickly in a consistent tone, for example, “Thanks for your tweet. We’d really like to help you, so please use this link to tell us more.”
The number of customers engaging brands on Twitter is only going to increase. If brands are going to continue to tweet daily promotional messages to followers on Twitter, they should also invest the resources in responding to their followers when they choose to reach out.