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Guest Post: Lessons to be Learned from The Great Social Customer Service Race

By Rachel Tran on Dec 13, 2012 5:35:00 PM

We worked with Ashley Verrill, Analyst at Software Advice, to create The Great Social Customer Service Race experiment.

Here she breaks down the study and tells us what brands can learn from the Software Advice investigation in our latest guest post.

The era of businesses using social media simply as a promotional tool is over. Increasingly, customers view the channel as a means for voicing brand grievances and requesting support. And companies that ignore these engagements risk spreading negative word of mouth and disenchanting their brand advocates.

It isn't feasible, however, to expect companies that receive thousands of mentions per day to respond to everything. So, they need a system for identifying, prioritizing and responding to the most important messages in real time. This is where social listening software is crucial. But like most things in business, it's all about execution.

Recently, I conducted a five-week research project called the “The Great Social Customer Service Race.” The goal was to asses how 14 of the nation's top brands execute their Twitter customer service strategy. What kind of messages would they respond to and how quickly?

From this test, I devised a list of best practices for the making the most of your social customer service strategy. But first a little bit about the race:

Four Software Advice employees used their personal Twitter accounts to send customer service tweets to the brands every week day for four consecutive weeks. Half of the time we used the @ symbol and the brand's Twitter handle, the rest of the time we just mentioned the brand.

Conversocial helped us develop questions they felt should receive a response, based on social media management best practices. These fell into five categories:

  • Urgent, or I need help right this second.
  • Positive ("thank you!").
  • Negative.
  • A question from their FAQ page.
  • Technical, or needs more than one interaction to solve.

Here's a summary of what we learned.

Use a Placeholder if Your Response Will be Delayed

Reports have shown customers expect an answer on Twitter within two hours. But several times during the race, companies took more than a day to respond to one tweet. 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.” Adding your initials on the end also personalizes and humanizes the message.

Leverage Support Interactions for Marketing

In our credit card group, MasterCard demonstrated social savvy when they re-tweeted one of our service interactions.

When one of our participants asked whether the credit card is accepted globally, the MasterCard team responded, then shared the exchange with their own followers. 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.

Really Solve the Customer's Problem

It sounds obvious, but in 140 characters it's easy to get lazy. 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 out 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 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.

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 high purchase-intent tweet that was sent four times during the race and never received a response:

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

Your listening software should listen for mentions with the @, without, and #brandname. 

Time for a Change

Overall, the brands only responded to about 14 percent of the tweets we sent during the race. The primary reason, though, was likely a gap in strategy more so technology. Start with making customer service part of your social media plan, then tweak your technology.

You can view the whole study here.

Got any suggestion for what you’d like to hear from us? Send them over toRachel@conversocial.com or @Conversocial. We’re always looking for new ideas!

Topics: Best Practices, Customer Service

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