07 August 2014

Customer response times - are you falling short of expectations?

Customers complaints via social media are increasing. Here's how to ensure your business doesn't fall short on customer expectations for response times.

The time it takes for businesses to respond to customer queries on social media varies considerably, but the overwhelming majority aren’t meeting customer expectations – or worse, they’re not responding at all. We examine why it’s important.

A recent conversation on Twitter has provided the inspiration behind today’s blog. We tweeted about an infographic called 10 surprising social media facts. We highlighted one – that 53% of users who tweet to a brand expect a response within the hour. We were slightly alarmed by this fact (yes, we admit we didn’t know it) because while we aim to respond to questions and complaints as quickly as possible on social media, we don’t always reply within the hour. However, judging by the responses to our tweet and other research below, we’re not alone.

Customer expectations

Research from The Social Habit concurs with these findings. Although it was a lower percentage, 42% of social media users said they expect a customer support response within the hour. Jay Baer of Convince and Convert took this one step further and found that 57% of customers expect the same response time at night and at weekends as they do for normal business hours.

No one in our Twitter conversation said they expected a response in an hour, with timescales ranging from 24 hours to seven days, depending on the nature of the enquiry. However, there was a universal opinion that if a business doesn’t respond, the customer will look elsewhere – in the words of @Christinekorda “I’m a true believer of letting my wallet do the talking… or walking”.

Businesses are falling short

The reality is that businesses are falling short of customer expectations. According to Zendesk, while 92% of UK customers say the speed of a response is important, only 35% say response times are good or excellent.

Simply Measured has been conducting a Twitter study of the top Interbrand 100 companies (their list of the best global brands) on a quarterly basis since 2012. Their results also indicate that there is room for improvement. In its 2013 results, only 10% answered within the hour, although 87% answered within 24 hours.

However, results from the first quarter of this year found improvements. For the brands with dedicated customer service handles, e.g. @AmazonHelp, the average response rate was 60%, up from a mere 42% in the 2013 study. However, that still means that on average, 40% of tweets to a Twitter customer account aren’t being answered at all. While companies shouldn’t aim for 100%, as some tweets may not be relevant to respond to, there’s clearly room for improvement.

How does this compare to more traditional customer service avenues?

According to this KISSmetrics infographic only 42% of consumers expect a response to their email within a day, compared to 50% of Twitter users.  This isn’t particularly surprising given the instant nature of Twitter, plus the fact that these enquiries are in the public domain means companies are likely to want to respond to these quicker.

7 Tips to great social media customer service

The research above has been conducted on large businesses that have dedicated customer support staff to deal with these enquiries. Smaller businesses are unlikely to have this, but there are still things you can do to help you respond in a timely manner, while making sure it doesn’t take up too much of your time.

  1. Set up alerts and notifications. Either set up email or app notifications to let you know when you’ve got a mention or a message. Yes, we realise this does slightly contradict our advice about turning off your email notifications to reduce distractions.
  2. Allocate time to respond properly. Don’t just rely on standard response rates- make sure your responses are personal and written sensitively
  3. Monitor your brand so you can respond to complaints or posts even when your business isn’t tagged. If you use Hootsuite, you can do this by setting up a search stream, but there are plenty of other monitoring services you can use to keep you informed. 
  4. Always respond publicly. You won’t always be able to discuss the issue publicly, but even if this is the case, you should respond publicly and ask to take the discussion offline, which can prevent the issue escalating online. If dealt with sensitively, a phone call or detailed email can also be more effective than several 140 character tweets – and quicker in resolving the issue. You may also have to acknowledge that sometimes a consumer won't be interested in the resolution and will only want to disrupt your business with negative comments.  
  5. Give them different avenues to complain. If they’ve got a lengthy query or complaint, it may be better to direct them to a complaints form on your website, so they aren’t restricted to the 140 characters on Twitter or direct them to a telephone number so they can contact you directly.
  6. Be proactive. If you’re getting the same queries or complaints, then work out what you can do to solve the issue. For questions, it may just be setting up an FAQ page or adapting your content/service so that it’s clearer. If a particular product receives similar complaints, investigate what you can do to solve it – is it a problem of quality or customer expectations?
  7. Set customer expectations. Set standards on when you aim to reply to them and publish this on your website or via social media, so they know when they can expect a response back.

Connect with the Bizspace Twitter team

While we’ve had a Bizspace Twitter account for a number of years, we’ve recently expanded this by encouraging our centre managers and sales team to join Twitter (after training of course). 

Our staff have taken to this with great gusto and are using the platform as another way to communicate with customers and other local businesses. We'd love to connect with you. To find your local Bizspace account, take a look at our team members list