Social customer service: The best retailers just “get it”

4th Nov 2015

Retailers are under increasing pressure to respond to customer service queries regularly and rapidly on social media, but in the US, despite social customer service’s supposed rise to prominence, email remains the most frequent channel for solving customer service queries.

The 2015 Eptica Retail Multichannel Customer Experience Study, which surveyed US-based retailers and consumers, found that email responses were over 3 times faster on average than social media, yet there was a clear gap between retailer performance and consumer expectations.

For instance, 58% of consumers would like to receive an email reply within 2 hours, yet the average response time was 7 hours and 51 minutes.

But in contrast, 85% of consumers surveyed expect an answer on Facebook within 6 hours but retailers took an average of over a full day (more than 27 hours) to respond, while on Twitter 64% of consumers demand an answer within 60 minutes, yet it took retailers on average over 31 hours to respond.

Despite this, a huge “chasm” exists between the retailers who understand social customer service and those that are yet to take hold of it. The study, which assessed retailers ranked between 500-1000 according to turnover by, found four retailers responded to service queries on Facebook in 1 minute – yet another four took over 20 days, with the slowest eventually replying 51 days after an initial query was raised.

It is this gap, says renowned customer service expert and author, Shep Hyken, that is now having an effect on which retailers consumers stay loyal to:     

“For me the Eptica Study proved that, for many retailers, customer service is just talk – or actually lack of it.

“Don’t promise me great service and then take hours to respond to my requests, if you respond at all. The best companies get it, respecting their customers and their time – these are likely to be the winners in the competitive retail market.”

It is not just the retail sector or exclusively the US where issues exist relating to satisfying consumer expectations for social customer service.

The International Customer Management Institute (ICMI) and InContact’s recent research report reveals that contact centre leaders across all sectors are struggling to meet the needs of their customers via social media.

The study of over 500 global executive leaders stated social customer service is a contact centre’s biggest challenge, and that contact centres continue to primarily support phone (97%) and email (87%) as a priority for customer support, with channels including social (41%), text-based online chat (36%), and SMS (12%) consistently given less attention.

“The [Eptica study] has uncovered a chasm between the best and worst when it comes to retail customer service,” says Olivier Njamfa, CEO and co-founder of Eptica. “Some companies are delivering stellar service, yet others are unable to deliver the multichannel performance that customers expect and demand. It is therefore vital that laggards learn from their peers if they want to retain customers and thrive moving forward.”

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