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Brands no longer have an option over whether or not they provide social customer service as consumer demand dictates that complaints and queries are at least acknowledged even if they are ultimately dealt with via a different (less public) channel.
A new study by IMGroup found that fashion retailer Next currently provides the best overall social customer service among brick-and-mortar retailers, followed by Argos and Marks & Spencer.
Next was the top performer on Facebook and the second best on Twitter, which are the two channels most commonly used for social customer service.
All of the retailers in the report had a Twitter presence, with seven of them operating a dedicated customer service feed. Only Superdrug and Boots do not use Twitter for customer service or complaint handling.
Argos currently provides the best overall online customer service on Twitter and achieved an average response rate of 76% and a response time of 55 minutes.
Research by Simply Measured published back in March shows that around a third (30%) of top brands have dedicated Twitter feeds for customer service and that number is likely to have increased by now.
That study found that the average response rate to all customer service mentions was 42%, while Ford achieved the best response rate at 75%. Only five of the dedicated support accounts maintained response rates greater than 60%.
The average response time for a customer support mentions over the duration of the survey was 5.1 hours, however the fastest average response time was Microsoft at just 42 minutes.
Even this might not be quick enough for some Twitter users, as separate research published by Lithium Technologies found that 53% of customers who ask a brand a question on Twitter expect a response within one hour.
However, if a customer makes a complaint to a brand using Twitter, that figure goes up to 72%.
Customers are therefore placing pressure on brands to focus their resources on dealing with social queries in a prompt and efficient manner.
It’s not enough to just think that social media users are being unreasonable in their expectations and leave them to wait hours for a response, as this damages the customer experience and can also lead to a very public PR problem for the brand.
A high profile example of this was British Airways failure to find a customer’s lost baggage, which resulted in him buying adverts on Twitter to complain about the poor service.
All the retailers included in the IMGroup report have a presence on Facebook which is used to provide customer service, complaint handling or engaging with their audience in some way.
Six out of the ten retailers have an above average response rate compared to the worldwide industry average response rate of 67%, while eight out of ten have an above average response time when compared to the worldwide average of 25 hours and 15 minutes.
Next provides the best online customer service on Facebook with an average response rate of 92% and an average response time of just 28 minutes.
The research examined relevant metrics, such as number of followers, response rate and response time to determine which retailers provide the best customer service and engagement across four key social media platforms; Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+.