Most Customer Service Tweets Go Unanswered Within 24 Hours

May 30, 2012 / 44 Comments

Twitter-bird

If you’re hoping to get a customer service question answered via Twitter, there are two retailers among the top 25 that are 100% reliable, a STELLAService study found.

STELLAService analysts tweet customer service questions to the top online retailers each day. Looking at those interactions, it’s clear that most top online retailers have yet to commit to Twitter as a channel for addressing customers’ questions.

But two retailers – Zappos.com and LLBean.com – replied to 100% of daily customer service questions posted to Twitter by STELLAService analysts in a recent 45-day study of the top 25 online retailers. It’s an impressive accomplishment considering the average for replies within 24 hours was just 44% across the top 25 online retailers.

What’s more, six of the 25 retailers didn’t reply to any of our analysts’ customer service inquiries over the same period, a service decision that could be costing those retailers sales. The recent American Express Global Customer Service Barometer reported that people who have used social media for customer service at least once in the last year are willing to spend 21% more with companies they believe provide great service – in contrast with the general population, which is willing to spend 13% more.

“The American Express study really shows that social media savvy consumers are more valuable customers,” STELLAService Chief Executive Jordy Leiser said. “Turns out, save for a few exceptions, retailers are not delivering a high quality service experience to those customers.”

STELLAService wanted to know which retailers offer the most reliable customer service on Twitter, consistently replying to questions within 24 hours. For the 45 days starting April 1, Amazon.com Inc.’s Zappos.com and LLBean.com responded to 100% of the daily questions posed by STELLAService on Twitter. Overstock.com and Dell.com also performed well, responding to 98% of the questions. Best Buy rounded out the top 5 performers, replying to 89% of questions within 24 hours.

Given the real-time nature of Twitter and users’ craving for immediacy, the study also revealed average response times for the five most reliable retailers. Zappos proved the speediest, posting an average response time of 54 minutes and 37 seconds, the only of the group to clock in under an hour, followed by Best Buy (1:47:20), Overstock (1:53:33), Dell.com (2:28:31) and LLBean (3:55:07).

The American Express Global Customer Service Barometer also found that more than three in five Americans feel companies have not increased their focus on providing better service, and of this group, 32% feel businesses are paying less attention to providing good customer service.

More than 80% of these consumers say they have abandoned a purchase because of a poor service experience, compared to 55% overall.

“There’s certainly room for improvement,” Leiser said. “These customers are digitally engaged. They’re shopping online and they’re using social media to talk about the retailers that treat them well. Companies that are serious about giving customers the highest quality customer service should take a close look at how they manage Twitter interactions because the nature of the medium calls for fast and efficient communication.”

Zappos.com started experimenting with service on Twitter in 2008. “We weren’t perfect when we got off the ground, but we’ve clearly gotten better at it,” said Rob Siefker, director of customer loyalty at Zappos.com.

Of the 500 employees that are part of Zappos.com’s customer loyalty team – which handles email, phone, live chat and Twitter correspondence – about 5 members handle all of the tweets. The company built out its own system to alert team members by email when the company is mentioned on Twitter, even crawling the service for possible misspellings of “Zappos.”

“Before we even got into it for service or interacting with customers, there were just a lot of people in the company using Twitter,” Siefker said. “We realized that if our customers are out there, we should be there too. It’s a really cool way to interact with people.

“Now it’s just engrained in how we operate the contact center,” Siefker said.

STELLAService continues to tweet service questions to retailers on a daily basis, as well as take measurements of service performance across phone, email and live chat support. In order to assess the entire customer experience, STELLAService also measures the shipping, return and refund performance of the leading online retailers.

This report included the 25 largest retailers according to the 2011 Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide. In order of their appearance in the Guide, the following retailers were included in the STELLAService study: Amazon.com Inc., Zappos.com Inc. (Amazon subsidiary), Staples Inc., Dell Inc., Office Depot Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Sears Holdings Corp., QVC Inc., Office Max Inc., Best Buy Co. Inc., Newegg Inc., Sony Corp., Costco Wholesale Corp., Macy’s Inc., Victoria’s Secret Direct LLC, Hewlett-Packard Co., J.C. Penney Inc., L.L. Bean Inc., Target Corp., Systemax Inc. (TigerDirect.com), Gap Inc., Williams-Sonoma Inc., HSN Inc., Overstock.com and Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. Apple.com was excluded because the company does not have a presence on Twitter, and Netflix.com was excluded because it is not a traditional online retailer. CDW.com and Grainger.com were excluded because they mostly focus on business customers.

In all, 1,125 tweets were measured from April 1, 2012 to May 15, 2012. Seven of the tweets were excluded from the calculations due to technical error. Screenshots of each tweet and reply (if applicable) were taken for record keeping of each interaction.

 

44 thoughts on “Most Customer Service Tweets Go Unanswered Within 24 Hours

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  6. Yet again, STELLAService are failing to provide Stellar surveys.

    The last time, it was in connection with Facebook responses where the size of the sample and the period of time surveyed was, to say the least, questionable.

    The comment “save for a few exceptions, retailers are not delivering a high quality service experience to those customers” is based upon a survey of 25 US retailers. It’s a poor sample size and therefore doesn’t give an accurate picture of Twitter interaction between retailers and customers across the US.

     

    • Hi Helen,

      We looked at well over 1,000 real twitter interactions from the largest 25 online retailers in the US over a month and half-long period, which is a significant and representative sample size. In the same way that analysts and researchers look at the combined sales figures of the largest companies in an industry as a general measure for the industry’s overall health performance, we think it’s appropriate to look at the service performance of the largest retailers as a general measure of that industry’s service performance.  I would be happy to speak with you about this study in more detail – or STELLAService in general – if you are interested. Feel free to call 212-366-1483. 

      Jordy Leiser
      Co-founder & CEO

      •  My problem, Jordy, is that the language of your reporting is flawed, I could be tempted to say
        “libellous”, therefore it leads me to doubt the integrity of your
        research. Again.

        You could have written: “23 out of 25 retailers we surveyed, did not, (according to our criteria), deliver a high quality response time” as opposed to the blanket: “retailers are not delivering a high quality service experience to those customers”.

        You have NO idea whether the 2 companies that you infer DID deliver  “a high quality service experience” actually did so, because your reporting (so I would suppose your survey), gave no indication of how that initial Twitter contact was followed through.

        You also failed to report on whether representatives from the 23 companies who are apparently “not delivering a high quality service experience” were in contact with the same customers via Facebook, email, telephone or any other methods of communication.

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  8. Did any of the retailers respond to tweets via another form of communication (e-mail, call, etc)?

    Do you recommend any notification features for retailers to stay on top of their tweets and respond promptly to their customers?  We use Raven social mentions, Google alerts, and TweetDeck… just wondering if there are better options out there.

    • Hi Angela,

      Interestingly, six companies sent direct messages asking to connect via another channel. Those instances were logged as if they were public replies. 

      Sounds like your company is on the right track in terms of social media monitoring and management. Those are great tools when matched with diligent customer service reps. Thanks for reading and feel free to reach out if you have more questions. 

      Ty McMahan
      Director of Content, STELLAService

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