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Companies struggle to keep up as more customers turn to Twitter for answers



This past January, Simply Measured monitored 32 dedicated customer service Twitter accounts. They tallying up the number of incoming and outgoing Tweets, calculated response times and posted their results in a brand new report.

Lucky for you, they gave me some of the numbers so you don’t have to do darn thing right now but keep on reading.

The first thing they found was a  44% increase in customer service handle mentions year-over-year compared to the monthly average during Q1 of 2013. Not good with numbers? Just look at the blue boxes.

Simply Measured Customer Service TweetsClearly, people have learned to turn to Twitter when they’re unhappy. And this is just a small portion of the big picture because Simply Measured only looked at dedicated customer service accounts such as @NikeSupport, @AskAmex, or @AmazonHelp. Just imagine if they’d be able to scoop up all of the customer service questions and complaints they found on Twitter in one month. The number would be ten times bigger. Maybe more.

Sometimes people just use Twitter to vent, not really expecting an answer. Sometimes they get one and many times they get a polite but useless customer response.

Last week, I had a computer meltdown. I bought a new computer with Windows 8. Hate to be predictable but . . .ugh.  I grumbled on Twitter. Two days later, I got this:

 

While I appreciate the fact that they’re monitoring for mentions of their product and they reached out a friendly hand, their Tweet to me is nothing more than smiley PR. They’re not going to solve my Windows 8 woes in under 140 characters.

Still, Simply Measured sees Twitter as a viable tool for handling customer service issues and customers seem to agree since they’re Tweeting in record numbers. But more complaints means more people are needed to respond and keeping up has been a struggle.

The report shows that average response time increased from 4 hours and 36 minutes to 5 hours and 36 minutes – which isn’t that bad but that’s just an average. 90% of companies did respond within 24 hours and frankly, that’s better than I’ve seen after email customer service.

Unfortunately, there’s a missing piece to this puzzle. The report can only count complaints and responses. What it doesn’t identify is how many people actually had their problem solved via Twitter. I’d guess that the majority of responses simply tell people how to get more help via a website email address. I guess telling me to send my order number to smile@happysupport.com is better than leaving me angry and hanging. But it’s still not a solution to the problem.

What Twitter is good for is answering the millions of routine questions that people could have answered for themselves if they just typed their question into Google. For example; do you ship internationally, what’s your return policy and how do I email my complaint to customer service.

Note to social media customer service reps: canned, cute answers don’t make it better. Sometimes it’s best to just let us complain and move on.