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Who’s Ignoring Their Customers?: A Survey Of The Largest US Retailers and Their Use of Social Media

By Louise Hanger on Nov 2, 2011 7:09:00 PM

Today we unveiled our second white paper at Social Media World Forum, held in New York City.

This study follows our investigation into UK reailers earlier this year, “Who’s Ignoring Their Customers?”, exploring the ways in which the US’s largest retail brands address the needs of their customers on Facebook and Twitter.

While large retailers are showing awareness of the need to do social customer service, many still fall short in delivering consistent service to their customers. 65% of all complaints and questions were missed by our sample group.

Who’s Ignoring Their Customers?: A Survey Of The Largest US Retailers and Their Use of Social Media

Safeway and Sears topped the group, while Kmart, Kroger and Walmart lagged behind with many of their fans ignored.

You can download the report in full, but here is a summary of our findings:

Missing Customer Complaints and Questions: Missing genuine complaints and questions in posts and comments was quite high and represents a real pitfall for retailers in the sample.  Walmart, the largest retailer in the sample, missed 40% of all customer service inquiries, while Costco, Kmart and Kroger missed 100%. Conversely, Safeway did well, missing only 5% of posts.

Response Times:  Those retailers with a larger volume of complaints; Sears, Walmart and Safeway; were fastest in the list. While it may appear on first glance that those retailers with the heaviest burden of customer service issues are performing best, with quicker average response times, this conclusion fails to play out across the board. 

America is Slower Than the UK:  As a group, US retailers are generally slow at responding to their customers, with none of the ten averaging at under an hour, compared with 2 retailers in our UK sample achieving a quick average time.

Current “Solutions” Not Working: The paper explains why redirecting to email is bad social customer service and why customer service apps, like the one provided by Walmart, are not working.

Surprising Winner: Safeway was the best retailer in our sample in terms of dealing with the full complaint on the wall. Whilst they still redirect some complaints to a Facebook dedicated email and a Freephone number, a significant number of conversations about customer satisfaction are handled on social media outlets.

Incident Resolution:  High volumes of issues are self-reinforcing, meaning companies can find themselves sucked into a vicious cycle and a complaints plagued wall, the longer they leave them ignored. This need for quick incident resolution could be a real downfall.  Although some fast average response times may suggest that customer service is being tackled – like a singular message requesting the customer to email a standard customer support address - the issue itself hasn't been dealt with at all. In this way, real customer service isn't happening yet in social channels (apart from some progress from our leader, Safeway).  

US retailers are a mixed bag.  Tail-enders represents the group who show no interest or commitment to social customer service.  Then there is the bulk group representing the inconsistent middle grounds that have both quick responses and missed comments.  This results from a general failure to establish response time commitments like aiming to respond to all customer questions in one hour.     

Download the white paper here

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