The Great Social Race: The Do’s and Don’ts of Customer Service on Twitter

By: Lien Brusselmans

December 19, 2012

Guest post by Software Advice Analyst Ashley Verrill

Today’s customer demands instant gratification. They don’t have time to sit on hold, wade through phone trees or even send an email. This reality has a number of implications for business, not the least of which is responding to the increasing volume of customers seeking support on Twitter.

Recently, I competed a five-week long research project in partnership with Engagor meant to evaluate whether 14 of the nation’s top brands have responded to this trend. The project called “The Great Social Customer Service Race” tested whether companies such as Apple, HP and Coca-Cola responded to our tweets, and how quickly when they did reply.

Myself and three of my colleagues used our personal Twitter accounts to send customer service tweets to 14 leading consumer brands in seven industries. Each company received one tweet per weekday for four consecutive weeks. Half of the time we used the @ symbol with the company’s Twitter handle, the other half we didn’t.

Here’s a list of social customer service Do’s and Don’ts we learned from the experiment.

Do: 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”

Do: Leverage Service Tweets for Marketing

In our credit card group, MasterCard was the clear winner. Not only did the company post a better-than-average response time, MasterCard capitalized 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. This showed their 30,600 followers that they listen and respond. In another instance, they used a customer service interaction as an opportunity to pitch another product.

Don’t Be Lazy, Really Solve the Problem

In one interaction with McDonald’s, the agent didn’t provide a good answer to our problem and it wasn’t immediately clear she was with the fast food chain. We asked about placing a regular weekly order for a business and she simply replied we should contact our local store.

If she really wanted to wow us, she could have asked the location of our office. Even better, she could have found that number of the nearest McDonalds, or even called them herself.

Don’t Forget Prioritization is Key

Most listening software, like Engagor, 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.

Do: Listen for Your Brand, @ or No @

Overall, less than 8 percent of the responses during the race came during the weeks we didn’t use the @ with the brand name. Just because the customer doesn’t address you specifically, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respond. This isn’t true in all cases, but consider this example.

Each of the tweeters in the race sent this message that didn’t receive one response:

    “I’m thinking of buying a new laptop today. It’s Macbook vs. HP? What do you think?”

Both brands missed this high purchase-intent tweet on four occasions. Your listening software should listen for mentions with the @, without, and #brandname.

Time for a Change in Social Strategy

The primary reason these companies missed many of our tweets likely was a gap in strategy more than technology. Many still view social media monitoring primarily as just for marketing. Time for a change.

Check all the results in the infographic

If you want to know the response rate and the response time for all the brands individually, check the infographic.

Note by Engagor

Finding the right tool for your social media management is not an easy task. It depends on your strategy and which features you are looking for. However, if you are looking for a tool that helps you with the do’s and don’ts Ashley described, you’ve come to the right place. Engagor monitors both social profiles (@mentions) and keywords. We also allow you to send out automatic notifications or automatically assign mentions to colleagues based on certain keywords popping up: help, thank you, etc. You can also receive notifications for mentions by users with over x followers or by influential users (you can define yourself). Many options, so feel free to check it out yourself in the free 14-day trial.