Social media is not just part of marketing a brand, it’s also part of the customer service relationship. Unfortunately, despite the increase in customer requests online, most of those inquiries go unanswered. Still, according to the latest Sprout Social Index, retailers can expect even more customer requests online, and 83 percent of those requests will be ignored.
Based on Sprout Social data, brands already received more requests on social media in Q3 2015 than during the same time period in 2014. However, only 16.35 percent of the inquiries received responses, a lower response rate than the same period last year.
Andrew Caravella, vp of marketing at Sprout Social, noted that the poor rate of response is a result of several factors. For some brands social media presents a resource and technological challenge. In other cases, brands just aren’t actively listening, or are so focused on outbound promotional messages that they neglect the engagement that results from the promotion.
Caravella told SocialTimes:
There needs to be a reshuffling of priorities to integrate [responses] into the fold. One-on-one conversations don’t seem like they scale very well, but in reality, if you’re having those one-on-one conversations day in and day out, you’re building a pretty solid base of relationships that will help increase loyalty and keep people interested in what you have to offer.
Sprout Social recommends brands treat seasonal social media staffing the same as they do with brick-and-mortar: hire more people to keep up with the increased demand of the season. Caravella acknowledge that for some retailers, this solution could present a budget challenge, but said it could be a matter of just shifting some resources internally.
Another challenge is perhaps that marketing does all the promotion, and the resulting questions would be better suited for customer service. Again, this is an argument for brands allocating the right resources to customer service teams to address the requests.
Caravella said the answer to this disconnect is to have communication tools and processes in place for routing questions to the right people.
Often the person managing social media doesn’t have the [necessary] customer service knowledge. So how do you make sure you can get those answers to each other?
Finally, the report noted that while retailers have increased the volume of outbound promotional messages on Twitter by 144 percent in the last six months; however, customer queries go through Facebook seven percent more frequently. Still, retailers are responding at a rate of 14 percent on Twitter, and responding on Facebook an average of nine percent.
This year, nearly every platform has made a push to enable social commerce. This holiday season will likely test these new systems as well as the ability of retailers to truly engage with customer requests online. Bottom line: We live in a social media connected world and brands need to balance social media marketing with dedicated resources for social customer service as well.
Image courtesy of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District on Flickr.