4 CRM Lessons Learned From 'The Great Social Customer Service Race'

A research project led by a CRM analyst reveals some serious issues with customer service practices from the nation's top brands. Essentially, when customers complain via Twitter, decision makers are not doing enough to guide the social CRM systems in a way that best serves their businesses. (Includes infographic.)

Sometimes as a writer your story takes an unexpected turn. Five weeks ago, I kicked off "The Great Social Customer Service Race," a research project that I expected to reveal Twitter customer service best practices from the nation's top brands. Instead, I discovered the still-nascent state of this emerging social strategy as tweet after tweet went unanswered.

In a consumer support context, many social CRM systems use sophisticated algorithms to identify, route and prioritize social help requests in real time. But it's still up to decision makers to guide these systems to what, when and how to traffic social mentions. In this article, we delve into what social CRM lessons we learned from the The Great Social Customer Service Race.

[Infographic: The Great Social Customer Service Race]

How the Customer Service Race Worked

Four Software Advice employees used their personal Twitter accounts to send customer service tweets to 14 leading consumer brands in seven industries. Each company received one tweet per weekday for four consecutive weeks.

During the first and third weeks, our employee participants used the brand's Twitter name with an @ symbol. Using the @ triggers a notification to the account owner that they've been mentioned in a tweet. In the second and fourth weeks of the race, only the brand name was used.

Slideshow: 10 Social CRM Tools to Help You Keep Tabs on Your Customers

I consulted with social media experts from Engagor, Conversocial and STELLAService to develop questions they felt should receive a response, based on social media management best practices.

The questions fell into five categories:

  1. Urgent, or I need help right this second.
  2. Positive ("thank you!").
  3. Negative.
  4. A question from their FAQ page.
  5. Technical, or needs more than one interaction to solve.

The evaluations in the

are based on the time it took the brands to respond and the percent of total tweets that received a reply.

Listen for Your Brand, With or Without The @

We were surprised by the overwhelming lack of response for tweets that did not include the @BrandName. Less than eight percent of responses came during the weeks when an @ was not used, or three of the 40 total responses. Consider this tweet that didn't receive a response:

social customer service race

The failure of brands to respond to tweets like these leaves a bad impression on me, the customer, as well as on anyone who follows me and sees I didn't get a response. In this case, even though I was not directly addressing Wells Fargo with an @ symbol, this was a clear opportunity for their team to show they are listening and they care.

Also, listening for mentions without your handle can uncover opportunities to retweet positive feedback for promotional purposes. Consider this message from the race, which wasn't acknowledged by Starbucks:

social customer service race

Most social listening software can be programed to listen for mentions without the @, with the @, and #brandname. You should listen for all three.

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