The Great Social Customer Service Race

[Today’s guest post is from Ashley Verrill of Software Advice.]

In March, I will head to Florida to speak at an HP conference about an experiment I conducted recently called “The Great Social Customer Service Race.” The four-week project tested how quickly and how often 14 top of the nation’s top brands respond on Twitter [infographic below or here].

The project started after I read a report saying as many as 73 percent of consumers use social media for customer service. I wanted know whether any of these mega companies have responded to this trend.

To make this assessment, myself and four of my coworkers used our personal Twitter accounts to send one tweet to each brand every day for four weeks. We asked questions that the companies should have prioritized according to social customer service best practices. This included questions that were either urgent, an FAQ, negative, positive or technical in nature.

Half the time we used the @ symbol with the brand’s Twitter handle (triggering a notification that someone mentioned them in a tweet), and the other half of the time we just mentioned the brand without an @ symbol.

HP invited me share what I learned from the race. Here’s a brief breakdown of a few of these key takeaways:

Listen for your brand, with or without the @.

Less than eight percent of responses came during the weeks when an @ was not used. The failure of brands to respond to negative, positive, or otherwise important tweets leaves a bad impression on the customer and anyone who follows them. Listening for these conversations also presents unique opportunities to surprise and delight the customer.

Choose Your Prioritization Rules Carefully.

It’s impossible to expect brands respond to every tweet, so they need prioritization rules programmed into their listening software so the most important tweets are sent to the front of the response queue. These prioritization rules can include combinations of your brand name and other words with high purchase intent, or risk of switching brands. Some examples include “thank you,” “mad,” “upset,” “buying,” “switching,” or “help.”

Track Social Customer Service Requests Like a Help Ticket.

Several times during the race, a tweet was responded to twice, or several days later. Companies should have a standard method for processing and tracking tickets that’s comparable to phone, email or other channels. One way your company can streamline social customer service is by integrating listening software with help desk ticketing programs. This enables users to automatically convert a tweet into a ticket, then mark it as open, resolved or waiting a response.

Record Interactions by Customer.

One of my goals was to see if any of the brands would identify us as active socializers and improve their response time. None of the brands did. You should record interactions by customer so you can identify users who share often on Twitter. You can nurture those relationships and possibly turn a detractor into a promoter.

Time for a Change in Social Strategy

These brands responded to a mere 14 percent of the 280 tweets delivered during the race. Whether the issue is one of strategy or technology, brands are still far from meeting customers’ expectations on Twitter.

Infographic: The Great Social Race by SoftwareAdvice
Infographic: The Great Social Race by SoftwareAdvice

About the Author:

Ashley Verrill is a market analyst with 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.

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