Content Marketing Blog

The Great Social Customer Care Race

This is a Guest Post from Ashley Verrill of Software Advice, an IT consultancy.

About Ashley

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.

Recently, I’ve noticed a troubling disconnect between what customers expect when they interact with brands on Twitter and the response they receive — or rather don’t receive.

While a customer goes to social media to have conversations, brands have historically viewed the medium as a platform for promotion. Many would say Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Google+ and other social media channels are where you post links to company news, deals of the day, or blog articles. But times have changed. Customers and lead prospects demand more.

Recently, I concluded an experiment to assess whether 14 of the nation’s top consumer brands have adopted a social engagement strategy. I wanted to find out whether they respond to questions on Twitter, and if so, how quickly. I called this project “The Great Social Customer Service Race.”

For the test, myself and three colleagues from my company sent one tweet daily to each brand from our personal accounts. We did this for four weeks in a row, then averaged their response time and ratio of response to total messages sent. Half the time we used the @ symbol and the brand’s Twitter handle. The other half of the time we only mentioned the brand name.

The results of this test are included in the infographic below. Additionally, we devised several social response best practices that we learned through interactions in the race.

Are You Listening @ or no @?

In a consumer support context, many social CRM systems use sophisticated algorithms to identify, route and prioritize social help requests in real time. They can be programmed to listen for @ mentions, mentions without your Twitter handle, and messages with a # and your brand name. You should listen for all three.

During the race, there was a huge difference in response rate between messages with the @ and those without. One could make the argument that responding to messages without the @ is invasive, but this is not always true.

These messages can often present an opportunity to demonstrate proactive customer service, particularly if the customer is upset. This can surprise and delight that person, effectively increasing your likelihood that they will spread word of mouth marketing. In the opposite case where you catch a positive mention without your @ Twitter handle, marketing can retweet that message.

Prioritization is Key

Most listening software can be customized with keyword identifiers that send important messages to the front of the line. During the race, it was clear several of the brands prioritize messages with “thank you,” with one company responding in about 13 minutes to that tweet.

At the same time, many more messages with important words such as “mad,” “help,” and “thinking of switching” went unnoticed. Companies should work with their team to program software to prioritize messages with these words and others that indicate risk of negative messaging, or intent to buy.

Use a Placeholder if Response Delayed

Several times during the race, companies took several days to respond to one tweet. This is a huge misstep when you consider many consumers expect a response within two hours. To mitigate this issue, require agents to post a placeholder response if the question has to be escalated or rerouted.

Something like “Thanks for tweeting us @customername! I’m looking into this now and will let you know ASAP! – AV”

Capitalize on Customer Service for Marketing

Social should not be separated exclusively in marketing, or community management or customer service. You need to look at the bigger picture. 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. In another instance, MasterCard used the customer service opportunity to pitch our Twitter participant a new product.

Social customer service

Social media customer interaction race