Big Brand Trends for Social Customer Service: What You Need to Know

Written by Laura Roeder

On March 31, 2015

Raise your hand if you’ve ever tweeted at a brand.

(Okay, put your hand down. We can’t actually see you.)

Still, as many as 80% of users have mentioned a brand in a tweet before – and the number of users turning to Twitter as a way of getting customer service is increasing.

The data wizards at Simply Measured recently conducted a study on Twitter customer service, and what they found can teach us a lot about what you should focus on the most – and what you shouldn’t worry about so much.

They studied the customer service Twitter handles for companies in the Interbrand 100 (the top brands in the world, basically) and put together their findings. You can download the report here – and if data’s your thing, you absolutely should – but in the meantime, let’s take a closer look at what they found, and what it means for you and your Twitter presence.

What you need to know about providing customer service on Twitter

Here’s what the statistics have to say:

1. People are looking for customer service on Twitter more and more

The number of Twitter mentions for big brand customer service handles was higher in early 2015 than at the same time in 2014 – a lot higher.

Twitter users mentioned these handles 41% more than they did in 2014, showing that people are using Twitter to get customer service considerably more often than they used to.

Year over year increase

Source: Simply Measured

Not only that, but the brands managing these accounts are stepping their game up, too – the number of responses to these tweets increased by 33%, showing that brands are working harder to keep up with the growing demand for customer service on social media.

When your customers try to get your help on social, and you don’t provide it, they notice. Make sure that you’re paying attention, and when people have questions or concerns, don’t just let them slide. Click to Tweet

And how should you respond, exactly, when somebody needs help? Well, what do you think the top brands in the world are doing?

2. Brands have a wide variety of response strategies

While brands have plenty of different ways of responding to customer service queries on Twitter, not all of those methods are popular.

For example, only 5% of responses direct the user to call the company – and only 3% of responses direct the user to DM the brand on Twitter.

The most common responses? Directing the user to email (12% of replies), apologizing (15%), and directing the user to online resources (24%).

That last one is actually the most popular way to respond to users looking for customer service on Twitter, and with good reason. For one thing, Twitter’s limit on characters can make it frustratingly difficult to give clear directions, or answers to complicated problems. Directing your user to a resource that will answer their question means you can get as detailed as you need.

Additionally, it makes your job easier, because you can stop explaining the same thing over and over. (Why do you think most businesses have an FAQ page?)

For example, we maintain a massive database of guides, tutorials, and answers to frequently asked questions, so when our users need assistance, we can direct them to detailed answers in a snap. Video tutorials are another resource you might create, so you always have a quick and easy place to direct people who need assistance.

Setting up resources like these may seem like a big time commitment, but ultimately makes it easier (and faster) to provide the type of customer service your fans expect and appreciate.

3. Response times aren’t as fast as you might think – or fear

How quickly do you think the world’s top brands are responding to customer service queries on social media?

Keep in mind, these are huge, heavily-funded businesses with dedicated CS teams. They probably respond to most requests in what, 30 minutes? An hour?

Actually, these brands are responding to social CS queries a lot slower than you’d expect.

social customer service

Nine out of ten responses to social customer service queries come within 24 hours, but in shorter periods of time, that number drops fast.

Less than half of all responses come within 4 hours. Less than a quarter of all responses come within 2 hours. Only 5% of responses come within an hour. Basically, even some of the biggest, most recognizable brands in the world have their limits.

And what does that mean for you and your brand?

For starters, timeliness does matter, and it matters a lot – but you may need to rethink your definition of just what “timeliness” is.

Would it be nice to respond to every customer service query on social media within minutes? Within an hour, even? Of course – but the reality is, even enormous brands with funding and resources out the wazoo can’t maintain that kind of pace.

That’s why providing responses to customer service queries in pre-scheduled batches is such a good idea. You’re still responding within the same time frame as most businesses – check in multiple times a day, if you want – but you aren’t allowing the fear of lingering questions to dictate your entire schedule.

Check in on social periodically, answer any questions that have accumulated since your last check, and move on. It’s easier than responding to every question as it rolls in, it’s better for your overall productivity, and it’s well within the standards set by the big brands.

4. Time zones and business hours affect everyone (so don’t drive yourself crazy)

Your customers can come from pretty much anywhere in the world – thanks, Internet! – but that may also make you feel like there are some pretty big gaps in your customer service routine.

Here at Meet Edgar, for example, we know that we have customers in places like the UK and Australia – but does that mean we should have a 24-hour customer service team? Should you?

Turns out, if you’re not able to respond as quickly as usual outside of North American business hours, you’re not alone – not by a long shot.

The customer service Twitter handles analyzed in this study maintain their best response times during North American business hours, but outside that range, the times between customer query and brand response get pretty long.

Response times for customer queries posted to Twitter outside North American business hours can average as long as 7+ hours.

Business hours and response times

Source: Simply Measured

Even big brands can’t necessarily maintain the same standards 24/7. If you check your social notifications first thing in the morning and find that somebody’s question has gone unanswered since midnight, don’t beat yourself up for not being able to answer in the wee hours – it’s just not something most businesses have the resources for.

Key takeaways:

To recap, some of the big things to remember from this study:

  1. People look for customer service on Twitter more and more every year
  2. Businesses are making it easier to provide customer service on social by preparing outside help resources
  3. Response times don’t have to be immediate
  4. You don’t have to be present 24/7

Ultimately, this is one reason why writing and scheduling your usual, non-CS updates ahead of time comes in so handy. When you know that your usual stream of updates is loaded in advance and scheduled to post automatically, it frees up both the time and the mental real estate to take care of social customer service queries as needed.

Scheduling mistakes happen when brands forget that live engagement is part of the equation – that’s when things like customer service get sidelined. Your advantage is knowing that you’re going to spend time live time on social media one way or another – so you may as well set yourself up to spend that time in as valuable a way as possible. The more you do in advance, the more time you have for things like social customer service – and the data just goes to show that this is what more and more of your followers expect.

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