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Latest Research Study: Who's Keeping Up with Twitter?

By Louise Hanger on Apr 4, 2012 12:24:00 PM

"Who's Keeping Up with Twitter? A Study of the Customer Service Performance of Major US Retailers and their Customers' Expectations" is our latest whitepaper, looking at the standard of customer service delivered by top clothing retailers on Twitter. For this study, we tracked response times to customer service inquiries raised in nearly 8,000 tweets.

We found that five of the top ten US clothing retailers do not respond to customer service complaints on Twitter at all, and only 13 percent of tweeted complaints received a direct response. Of those tweets getting a response, 37 percent of replies came more than 10 hours after the initial post.

The research shows that retailers don’t appreciate the importance of responding to customer service complaints on Twitter quickly.

“When grievances are taken to social media, it is often the customer’s last resort. But despite this, a positive customer service experience here can make a real difference and can even turn your critics into brand evangelists,” said Joshua March, our CEO.

American Eagle was the most responsive of America’s top clothing retailers, directly answering nearly 70 percent of complaints on Twitter. Despite this high mark, American Eagle has not mastered social media best-practices. Failing to monitor its feed over the weekend and inconsistent response times, with some replies provided in as little as 20 minutes while others languished for more than 50 hours were some key weaknesses in their social customer service.

The study showed that many companies have yet to match up to emerging standards in social customer service. For example, when looking at Gap’s presence on Twitter than week, we found that customers posted a sequence of @mentions discussing clothing malfunctions, damaging Gap’s brand among its base. While all of these posts mentioned Gap’s Twitter profile, they all went unanswered by Gap’s official account.

Here are some takeaways from the study, to help other business to tackle customer service effectively:

  • Customers Have Questions: The majority of complaints on Twitter are direct questions rather than general defamations – to which customers expect a response and direct communication.

  • Conversations on Twitter Move Quickly, Even if Retailers Don’t: Companies are slower than other Twitter users, and they are deeply engaged in conversations about brands. There are more customers than there are social media managers, and conversations move quickly.

  • Direct Response Required: In general, the biggest challenge to social PR is dealing with negative comments about a company. These comments make up less than 10 percent of tweets, but they have the highest probability of going viral and can inflict the most brand damage. 

  • Brands Are Visible on Twitter: When people search for a company’s handle or a hashtag incorporating the company’s name, companies want the results to reflect positively on their brands. If companies are not adequately dealing with social customer service complaints, the search results for their company may broadcast this fact to a larger audience of current and potential customers.

Although Twitter has established itself as a leading social media platform, our research highlights the fact that most companies aren’t using it properly.

“Distracted by posting information and generating a Twitter presence, brands are significantly underestimating the importance of listening to their customers,” March said. “With Twitter’s numerous and fluid news feeds, every tweet is a gamble. You never know, and can’t control, how inflammatory an individual complaint can be.”

You can download the research paper in full here.

Follow us on Twitter here and join in the discussion on our Linkedin group, Best Practice for Customer Service.

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