Industry Study: Social Customer Care

If you’re like most modern day consumers, you use social media not only to connect with friends, family, and colleagues, but also to contact businesses you interact with. In fact, research suggests more than two-thirds of consumers have used social media to contact customer service. Think back to the last time you used social media to contact (or comment on) customer service – was it to leave a glowing compliment?

Unfortunately, half of all customers who use social media for customer service employ it as a way to vent about a poor experience. These complaints are public, making social customer care a particularly high stakes channel. Despite the obvious consequences, social media as a customer service channel still has the lowest rate of issue resolution and customer satisfaction.

customer service performance across channels -

To better understand the current landscape of social customer service provided by leading online retailers, StellaService conducted a survey measuring responsiveness, speed, and content of social support provided by the StellaService Ecommerce Index.

In this study, StellaService evaluated both Facebook and Twitter, and analyzed product and policy questions as well as complaints. Metrics evaluated included response rate, speed of response, and whether or not the retailer provided an option to follow-up using a different channel.

Use of Facebook and Twitter

  • 97% of companies in the Stella Index use Facebook as a channel for customer service
  • 100% of Index companies use Twitter for customer service
    • Of those, 34% use a dedicated Twitter support account to field inquiries
    • All others respond to questions via their main brand account

Speed of Responses

Generally, Twitter responses were faster than those received on Facebook, though not dramatically so. Across both channels, less than 10% of inquiries took more than 24 hours to receive a response, meaning social media is still a surefire way for consumers to get a rapid reply.

Both Zappos and Nordstrom excelled at responding quickly, fielding inquiries in under 5 minutes on both Facebook and Twitter.

social media response times -

Content of Responses

Whenever possible, retailers should attempt to first resolve publicly, as this both shows the larger audience that you’re handling the matter and can help consumers with similar issues to resolve their own problems.

In StellaService’s analysis, however, 40% of responses across both platforms requested private communication. This can be especially helpful when asking a consumer for sensitive information. When asking consumers to switch to a more private method of communication, most retailers requested a direct message, though some others advised a phone call, website/online form, or email. Others suggested physical retail stores as a way to resolve customer issues.

Best Practices

Create a Separate Twitter Account for Service

Having a dedicated account specific to service inquiries keeps your general brand feed clear of too much back and forth, and allows you to engage with customers in different ways. It also sends a clear message to consumers that you do offer support via Twitter, and gives direction on where to send service inquiries.
However, retailers should also note that not every customer will do their research before tweeting. Support staff should monitor both accounts to ensure no compliments, questions, or complaints are missed.

Leave Negative Posts

Customers know that the service world isn’t all sunshine and rainbows, and that not every interaction is a happy one. Seeing a few complaints on a retailer’s page shows transparency and demonstrates trust.
The best way to handle negative posts is to respond quickly and with empathy, both addressing the customer that has an issue, and showing others that your team cares and is equipped to handle problems.

Sweat the Small Stuff

When comments are published for the world to see, attention to detail matters more than ever. Pay attention to details like customer names and using correct spelling and grammar.

If you’re including a link in a post, using a link shortener like can help keep replies looking concise and clean.

Do Your Homework

When customers reach out with product or policy questions, they expect a knowledgeable response. It’s essential for social media staff to have a solid understanding of your company’s offerings, and to have the resources and tools necessary to research complex customer inquiries.

Agents should always attempt to provide complete information, and where applicable, a helpful link to the specific product or policy in question. They should avoid sending customers searching for answers through links to their general website or help pages.