In just a couple of weeks, I’ll be launching (along with Jason Falls, Mark Schaefer, Tom Webster, and our partners at Edison Research) the newest edition of The Social Habit. Landmark, legitimate research into how social media is used, and by whom. I’ve seen the raw data, and it’s a mind-blower. There’s still time to subscribe to this edition (which also gets you exclusive access to our grand unveiling Webinar on October 11), so if you haven’t parted with your dollars yet, please do so. It’ll be worth every penny, and then some. (if you’re not satisfied, I’ll refund you money personally. guaranteed)
We’ll have many more eye-popping findings in The Social Habit research, but today I wanted to tantalize you with some data about customer expectations for social customer service.
Is Social Customer Service the New Telephone, or the Next Email?
The provision of customer service via social media channels has become nearly axiomatic, especially in B2C industries with high volumes of contact. It’s become one of the Big Three customer service channels, joining phone and email to form the triad of support modalities. Certainly, you could use postal mail, fax, or live chat for customer service, but those are just drops in the bucket compared to the Big Three.
Historically, customer expectations for phone support are far different than those for email support. We don’t have data on phone support in this version of The Social Habit, but I think we can stipulate that when you use the phone, you expect a synchronous response – even if hold times can become excruciatingly long when “call volumes are abnormally heavy.” Email is different. You send a support email (or fill out a contact form, which is the same mechanism), and you expect a response in a few hours, or a day or so.
But what about social media? Are our expectations for response more urgent and similar to phone, or less urgent like email? We decided to find out, and our findings paint a difficult and resource-intensive picture for business.
Among respondents to The Social Habit who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 32% expect a response within 30 minutes.
Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.
Certainly, consumers understand that social media staffing patterns change at night, and on weekends, right? They don’t expect round-the-clock support, do they?
Actually, they do in many cases.
Our research found that among those respondents who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 57% expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.
And the water gets even hotter. We ran a cross-tab of the data set and discovered that 24% expect a reply within 30 minutes, period.
24% of American Internet Users 12+ Who Have Contacted a Brand in Social Media,Expect a Reply Within 30 Minutes, Regardless of When the Contact Was Made.
Can You Handle the Truth?
When you hear talk about the need to “scale social media” this is one of the reasons why it’s an important conversation. (See and download excellent ebook from Sprinklr on this topic, including some thoughts from me and a bunch of other social media thinkers). Are customer expectations realistic? And can you possibly meet those expectations with a centralized approach to social customer service?
Quick note on methodology: This isn’t some “we asked 42 people” survey. The respondent base – just the people who HAVE reached out to a company for support via social – is 690 persons from a sample of over 3,000 American social media users. Real data = real answers for your business.
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