Why is social media not working for customer service?
Despite promises to eliminate long waits on hold and speed consumers to empowered associates, the use of social media to handle customer service issues remains stubbornly ineffective for most retailers.
A study of 500 of the top U.S. retailers from customer engagement software provider Eptica found only 20 percent were able to answer questions sent via Twitter and 54 percent sent via Facebook. By comparison, 74 percent were able to respond to emails received.
Retailers also responded over three times faster to email queries on average than social media. The average response time to email was seven hours and 51 minutes versus 27 hours on average for Facebook and 31 hours for Twitter.
A fourth option, web chat, was fast (on average taking four minutes and 28 seconds for retailer responses) but only 35 percent of retailers were able to address concerns in this fashion.
Regardless of the challenges, being able to respond to service issues via social media has become an expectation. A corresponding survey by Eptica of 1,000 consumers showed consumers expect much faster responses across communication paths.
Source: Eptica infographic: “New Retail Multichannel Customer Experience Study”, 2015
The most recent Sprout Social Index — based on aggregating and analyzing public Twitter and Facebook social profile data between Q3 2014 and Q3 2015 — also found that this holiday season, the average retailer can expect more than 1,500 inbound social messages, a nearly 20 percent jump from the 2014 holiday period.
On the positive side, other surveys point to how a quick and effective resolution to a customer service issue via social media can boost word-of-mouth and engender loyalty with customers. On the riskier side, many social media queries are on public display and can trigger more complaints if resolutions don’t go well.
According to articles on Forbes and Entrepreneur, some tips around using social media for customer service resolutions include:
- A sense of urgency: Answers on social media are expected within minutes, even if it’s to indicate you’re working a solution;
- Quality associates: With social media seen as more intimate than email or an 1-800 number, associates should be able to listen, empathize, apologize and compensate if necessary;
- Better integration: Handling customer service issues across a variety of communication paths has created additional complexities. Snags include gaining approvals for resolutions, shifting issues to the authorized and appropriate associates, understanding when the customer has reached out to different teams (i.e, marketing, customer service, social), and linking social profiles with customer information;
- Overreaction risks: A defensive or inflammatory response can quickly spread and linger across social media.
- Email beats social media as best channel for customer service in retail – Eptica
- The Gift of Gab: Retailers Should Expect a 20% Jump in Social Messages This Holiday Season – Sprout Social
- Customer Service Gets Social – Payments
- 3 Mistakes That Undermine Using Social Media for Customer Service – Entrepreneur
- Social Media Customer Service: 3 Speakers, 12 Best Practices – Forbes
- Putting social media to work – Bain & Co.
Why haven’t Facebook and Twitter fulfilled their promise as tools to more quickly resolve customer service issues? How optimistic are you that social media will ultimately develop into an effective customer service tool?