Social media, particularly Twitter and Facebook, are becoming the go-to place for consumers to have their questions answered, yet companies are still stumbling when using social as a customer-management channel.
According to new research from Sprout Social, messages sent to brands requiring attention via Twitter or Facebook increased 175% over the past year. Meanwhile, response lag times to those messages have increased from an average of 10.9 hours to 11.3 hours from when the message was first received.
“What we’re seeing is the volume of inbound messages is skyrocketing,” Andrew Caravella, vice president of marketing for Sprout Social, tells Marketing Daily. “On the flip side, the brands that are engaging with those customers are doing a good job [but many] are still struggling with it.”
Meanwhile, response rates to requests made on Facebook and Twitter have dropped below 20%, meaning four out of every five customer inquiries are going unanswered, the report notes. In other customer service channels, the report notes, that low rate would be unacceptable.
“You don’t want to respond to the same thing over and over again, but you need to address individuals one-on-one,” Caravella says, even if many of the communications are similar in nature. In such cases, Caravella says, it might be a good idea to create a blog post or some other easily accessible solution to point customers to. “I think it’s tough to blanket respond via one tweet and not acknowledge [others coming in],” he says.
Not surprisingly, brands with the highest number of followers have the lowest response rates. However, when they do respond, the time it takes to do so tends to be faster than for brands with fewer followers. Brands with fewer than 1,000 followers took an average of 11.7 hours to respond (with an 18% response rate), while brands with more than 10,000 followers responded within 5.7 on average (but had only a 7% response rate).
“That’s probably a natural tendency given the higher volumes of [consumer contact],” Caravella says. “They’re probably doing high volumes of triage.”
To improve the rates, time and quality of the responses, Caravella recommends companies structure their social teams for responsiveness and match those people who are best at responding to customer inquiries to be on the front lines of social. “That means understanding who on your team is best equipped to answer questions, so you’re not just throwing people into it,” he says.