“It’s like troubleshooting in a coffee shop or bar. It’s likely more people will hear about it and pull friends from across the room to listen.”
Bad news travels further, faster from one trusted network to another. It’s a dangerous game. Many companies imagine they can avoid the problem altogether by sticking their head in the sand. But just because you don’t see these unanswered service requests, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Just ask Salesforce.com Senior Vice President of Marketing Solutions Fergus Griffin:
“I guarantee your customers are already using the channel, and they’re probably already talking about your brand,” he told me in a conversation about their social service demo at last year’s Dreamforce event.
It was this increasing attention around social customer service that led me to kick off an experiment recently called “The Great Social Customer Service Race.” In addition to writing blogs, I review and write buyers’ guides for social CRM systems. I wanted to know if 14 of the biggest brands in the country were leveraging such technologies to prioritize and respond to customer service requests on Twitter.
How the Race Worked
Myself and three of my colleagues used our personal Twitter accounts to send customer service tweets to 14 leading consumer brands in seven industries. Each company received one tweet per weekday for four consecutive weeks. Half of the time we used the @ symbol with the company’s Twitter handle, the other half we didn’t. Using the @ triggers a notification to the account owner that they’ve been mentioned in a tweet
The questions fell into one of five categories:
The goal was to evaluate which messages were prioritized and how consistently they responded. This included messages with an @ symbol and brand name, as well as others where simply the brand was mentioned. We sent the tweets every day from four different personal Twitter handles, for four consecutive weeks.
Hare are some lessons we learned:
Are You Listening @ or no @?
In a consumer support context, many social CRM systems use sophisticated algorithms to identify, route and prioritize social help requests in real time. They can be programmed to listen for @ mentions, mentions without your Twitter handle, and messages with a # and your brand name. You should listen for all three.
During the race, there was a huge difference in response rate between messages with the @ and those without. One could make the argument that responding to messages without the @ is invasive, but this is not always true.
These messages can often present an opportunity to demonstrate proactive customer service, particularly if the customer is upset. This can surprise and delight that person, effectively increasing your likelihood that they will spread word of mouth marketing.
Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize
For large companies, it’s impossible to expect that they respond to everything. But overall, these brands only replied to about 14 percent of the messages we sent. This is frighteningly low. To tackle this challenge, companies should utilize technology that identifies the most important messages and moves them to the front of the response queue.
This is done primarily through prioritization rules that can be customized and programmed into your listening technology. This should include priority triggers such as “thank you,” “angry,” “mad,” “switching,” “buying” and so on. Your team should also spend time finding other keywords that might be more specific to your industry or company.
Make Your Advocates Feel Special
In addition, you should have a system for identifying brand advocates and social detractors. During the race, we each tweeted one brand as many as seven times – I expected to see a change in the response rate or speed of response. But there was no change.
Tracking your Twitter interactions by customer will give you this ability. Nurturing a brand advocate increases the likelihood they will stick with your brand and share your messages. Finding detractors can improve their opinions about your brand and potentially mitigate their impact.
These are just a few of the lessons we learned during the race. Check out the infographic for more details on each brand’s performance.