Are brands delivering social customer service fast enough?
Ahead of publishing its new report, ‘The Social Habit’, in a few weeks’ time, organization Edison Research has been drip-feeding some of its more revealing insights to the industry, and in a recent blog post, asks if consumer expectations for social customer service are realistic.
Their research is likely to have many brands in a fluster. Respondents to The Social Habit survey said that when they contact a brand, product or company through social media for customer support, 42% expect a response within an hour, and 32% expect a response within 30 minutes. Furthermore, 57% expect the same response times at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.
That’s a heck of a resource-intensive target for most brands, let alone ones at the top of their game. Earlier this week we looked at Unmetric’s social retail findings, which revealed – among other things – social response times from America’s major clothing brands. Walmart took poll position with an average response time of 1 hour 28 minutes – well below the expectations of those surveyed in The Social Habit.
And while Walmart was the fastest to reply to customers, it did so most inconsistently, replying to only 7% of tweets. Nordstrom, on the other hand, replied to 92% of tweets with an average speed of 1 hour 52 minutes, but by all accounts is something of an anomaly in Unmetric’s findings. Macy’s, meanwhile, replied to 81% of tweets, but with an average response time of 10 hours 39 minutes, is there any point?
Historically, customer service has always been relatively instant, albeit more hard-sought. In-store, consumers interact face-to-face with staff, and on the phone – even after an eternity spent on hold – customers are able to engage, in real-time, with someone that can help. Even in more recent times email contact forms inform the user that their comment or query has been received, and give information on when they can expect a response.
Customer service on social media is an entirely different game, obviously. Brands and companies are inundated with comments and tweets, and sifting through them to identify required action is time-consuming in itself. Then, of course, there’s the level of engagement offered in responses. How many times have you lamented a product or service’s shortcomings on Twitter, only to receive a bog-standard template reply: ‘Hi, we’re sorry to hear that. Please call us at [number] and we’ll look into it’?
Yawn. Very uninspiring and not-at-all helpful, but when brands are struggling to keep abreast of customer contact and their social resources are already stretched, it’s better than having customers shouting mutely into the internet ether.
But as Mitch Joel acknowledges over at the Huffington Post, “Pandora’s box has been opened. It can’t be closed. Brands are racing to capture as many fans as possible in as many social media channels as possible. It’s not enough for brands to capture and connect with these consumers, without the expectation of one good turn deserving another.”
Brands have a new challenge on the horizon, then. It’s no longer simply about capturing the hearts and minds of customers – both existing and potential – with conversation and competitions, it’s about stepping up to the plate and meeting their expectations as consumers. Are they realistic expectations? With the current social customer service ‘infrastructure’, no, they’re not. But that’s not to say they’re unreasonable.