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Brand giants such as Apple, Pepsi and Visa receive thousands upon thousands of messages per day on Twitter and it’s not reasonable for them to respond to everything. However, it’s a good idea to utilize a method or process for selecting the most important messages and responding positively and efficiently.

Software Advice completed a research project recently, called “The Great Social Customer Service Race,” to test this assertion. I chose 14 top brands in seven industries and wanted to know if they could pick out customer service requests in basic categories – high purchase intent, risk of switching, negative sentiment, and positive sentiment, among other important question types.

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. We tested 14 brands in seven industries.

Here’s what we learned…

Leverage Service Tweets for Marketing

In our credit card group, MasterCard was the clear winner. Not only did the company post a better-than-average response time, MasterCard capitalized on an opportunity to market a customer service interaction.

When one of our participants asked whether the credit card is accepted globally, the MasterCard team responded and re-tweeted her message. This showed their 30,600 followers that they listen and respond. In another instance, they used a customer service interaction as an opportunity to pitch another product.

If Response Delayed – Use a Placeholder

Several times during the race, companies took several days to respond to one tweet. This is a huge misstep when you consider many consumers expect a response within two hours. To mitigate this issue, require agents to post a placeholder response if the question has to be escalated or rerouted.

Something like “Thanks for tweeting us @customername! I’m looking into this now and will let you know ASAP! – AV”

Really Solve the Problem

In one interaction with McDonald’s, the agent didn’t provide a good answer to our problem and it wasn’t immediately clear she was with the fast food chain. We asked about placing a regular weekly order for a business and she simply replied that we should contact our local store.

If she really wanted to wow us, she could have asked the location of our office. Even better, she could have found the number of the nearest McDonald’s, or even called them herself.

Prioritization is Key

Most listening software can be customized with keyword identifiers that send important messages to the front of the line. During the race, it was clear several of the brands prioritize messages that contain “thank you,” with one company responding in about 13 minutes to that tweet.

At the same time, many more messages with important words such as “mad,” “help,” and “thinking of switching” went unnoticed. Companies should work with their team to program software to prioritize messages with these words and others that indicate risk of negative messaging, or intent to buy.

Listen for Your Brand, @ or No @

Overall, less than 8 percent of the responses during the race came during the weeks we didn’t use the @ with the brand name. Just because the customer doesn’t address you specifically, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t respond. This isn’t true in all cases, but consider this example.

Each of the tweeters in the race sent this message that didn’t receive one response:

“I’m thinking of buying a new laptop today. It’s Macbook vs. HP? What do you think?”

Both brands missed this high purchase-intent tweet on four occasions. Your listening software should listen for mentions with the @, without, and #brandname.

Social Strategy Needs a Change

These brands responded to a mere 14 percent of the 280 tweets delivered during the race. Whether the issue is one of strategy or technology, brands are still far from meeting customers’ expectations on Twitter.

Social Customer Service Race [Infographic]
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