Monday, January 21, 2013

INFOGRAPHIC: The Great Social Customer Service Race

Earlier this month, we tweeted a link to "4 Customer Service Lessons from the Biggest Brands on Twitter." We're happy to present a guest post delving into that topic by Ashley Verrill, along with the great infographic. (To submit your own guest content, email

I recently completed a five-week research project meant to assess the social customer service responsiveness of 14 top consumer brands in the U.S. Twitter specifically is rising in popularity as a medium for voicing consumer queries. I wanted to see how companies such as Coca Cola, Pepsi and Apple leveraged technology to fulfill this need.

To test these companies, I asked four of my colleagues to send customer service tweets to 14 leading consumer brands in seven industries. Each company received one tweet per weekday for four consecutive weeks. For two weeks we used the @ symbol with the company's Twitter handle, but for two more weeks we just mentioned the brand without the @.

The questions were either urgent, or we needed help right that second; positive; negative; or a query from the company's FAQ page. Here's a few lessons we learned about listening technology from the experiment.

Listen for Mentions With @, no @ and #Brand
There was a huge disparity during the race for messages with the @ and those without. Certainly brands shouldn't insert themselves in someone else's conversation, but these interactions also provide an opportunity for the company to express proactive customer service. These interactions increase the likelihood the customer will share the interaction and refer your brand to friends.

Marketing can uncover positive feedback that's perfect for retweeting and fend off competitors that are also listening for their brand. During the race, several tweets directed at Bank of America and Wells Fargo received a response from a competitor asking that we consider their institution instead.

Successful Prioritization Rules Are Key
Customers that tweet requests on Twitter are seeking instant gratification. For companies that receive thousands of mentions a day, it's impossible to expect them to catch everything, but businesses should have a system for picking out the most important messages. During the race, many of the participants missed messages that indicated huge risk of switching brands, or high purchase intent.

Social CRM programs allow users to customize prioritization rules with things like key word identifiers, social clout and customers history. So a company could for example make sure a tweet with “help,” “mad,” “#fail,” “thank you” and the brand name, is moved to the front of the service queue.

Identify Active Socializers
Also important to this message priority system is social customer service history. I hoped one of the companies in the race would see we were active brand followers and improve their response averages - but this didn't happen.

Companies could program a prioritization trigger that alerts agents when a brand advocate or detractor has sent a message. This is particularly important when paired with social clout considerations. Overall, the brands that participated in the race only responded 14 percent of the time. Whether the issue is one of technology or strategy, it's clear even the top brands in the world are still fine-tuning their social customer service strategy.

About Ashley Verrill 
Ashley Verrill is a market analyst and writes for the Software Advice website. She has spent the last six years reporting and writing business news and strategy features. Her work has appeared in myriad publications including Inc., Upstart Business Journal, the Austin Business Journal and the North Bay Business Journal. Before joining Software Advice in 2012, she worked in sales management and advertising. She is a University of Texas graduate with a bachelor's degree in journalism.

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