About two weeks ago, we tweeted out a link to a piece on Forbes about social customer service—why some companies are good at it, and others are not—which referenced research done by Analyst Ashley Verrill, of Software Advice. We received a nice note thanking us for the tweet, with a link to the results of Ashley’s customer service on Twitter experiment.
There was quite a bit more in the experiment results than was referenced in the piece on Forbes, and from the perspective of a company that monitors for exactly these sorts of interactions, I found there to be quite a few noteworthy nuggets of wisdom.
First and foremost, one of the more important takeaways from the experiment was: Monitor for more than just your Twitter handle. Companies that task their monitoring platforms to just identify @ mentions will miss a fair amount of relevant mentions.
The experiment focused on very large companies, where there’s an assumption that there will be a customer care response team at the ready to respond to online complaints, compliments, or questions. I think that small- and medium-sized companies should be cut a bit more slack with respect to the time limits expected when responding, but that’s a personal opinion and one not addressed by the experiment. Frankly not every company has the dedicated resources to respond as quickly as Twitter users “expect”—within two hours can be either completely reasonable (during office hours at a large company) or totally unreasonable (such as a 2 a.m. Tweet directed at a medium-sized company).
If I had one quibble about the study, it would be the inclusion of Apple in the breakout analysis of consumer tech companies. Apple has, rather famously, refused to join the social realm—they simply do not engage online. Including Apple in this analysis was bound to fall flat. Assuming that a huge tech-driven company like Apple is active on social channels might seem intuitive; but it’s important to make sure the company actually presented a possibility for engagement. Without the chance of Apple responding, it’s sort of like lamenting that a slow runner won the sprint when there wasn’t anyone else at the starting line.
Overall, that’s a small point and the balance of the study is worth examination by any company that wishes to get a better handle on the sticky issue of customer service response in social media. The foundation of having an effective social media customer service presence is, first and foremost, effective monitoring. You can’t respond to something you never see.