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Too many customer requests via social media fall on deaf ears

July 1, 2015, 5:49 PM UTC
contract Armin Harris. Kyle Bean for Fortune
Kyle Bean for Fortune

Congratulations! Your marketing and customer support teams have amassed thousands of followers on the company’s Facebook and Twitter accounts. Now, they might actually want to start paying attention to these service channels.

It turns out that while people may put up with waiting on telephone hold for 15 minutes (or so) or be willing to bide their time for an email response, they’re not so patient with social media.

Close to 42% of consumers expect resolution within an hour of posting a question or issue. The problem is, right now social media represents one of the least responsive ways for someone to get an answer, according to data from consulting firm Northridge Group. (Registration required.)

Indeed, about two-thirds of the 1,000 consumers surveyed by the company report they’ve had to reach out at least twice to get an answer. Notes Northridge CEO Therese Fauerbach in comments about the findings:

“Nearly half of consumers plan to use social media for customer services issues the same or more than they currently do. There are clearly opportunities for companies to provide excellent customers service on all channels, including social media. Consumers want to use social to resolve problems, but the experience is inconsistent compared to other channels.”

In fact, U.S. brands are actually among the worst offenders, finds separate research by another strategy firm, Socialbakers.

The response rates calculated as part of its quarterly “Socially Devoted” index were downright abysmal: 59.4% for queries posted via Facebook and just 18.1% for those communicated through Twitter. The average response rates for companies globally were 74% and 30% globally. The analysis tracked brands received at least 10,000 questions on social channels during the quarter.

Which companies are getting things right?

On Twitter, Socialbakers points to Nike, which was actually represented by several regional accounts. The Boston division, for example, had close to an 84% response rate. Meanwhile, T-Mobile USA scored well from a sheer volume standpoint.

When it comes to Facebook interaction, look to Fitbit for inspiration. It wasn’t as fast as the other companies cited—which happened to be the top four U.S. wireless carriers—but the wearables technology company responded to almost 84% of the inquiries left on its page, according to the analysis.

The takeaway? Using social channels to serve customer service needs is natural, because of the efficiencies it promises and the positive notoriety your brand can receive when things go right. But an organization needs to think social to succeed. That takes far more than simply establishing an account.

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