Top brands use Twitter for customer support, study says

A new study reveals 95 percent of the top 100 brands use Twitter as a customer service platform. It’s time to follow suit.

Among the brands listed on the Interbrand Top 100, nearly all (95 percent) use Twitter and nearly one in four (23 percent) use it as a customer service platform (i.e., they have a Twitter handle dedicated to customer service), according to a new report by Simply Measured.

For the study, Simply Measured tracked three months of Twitter messages exchanged via the 23 customer support accounts (from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30).

Among the Top 100 brands, seven (7 percent) responded to more than 50 support-related tweets each day over the three months, and three (3 percent) handled more than 100 tweets a day:

Meanwhile, customers have fairly high expectations for receiving support via Twitter.

Simply Measured cites a separate study conducted by The Social Habit that found two-thirds (67 percent) of surveyed Twiter users expect a response from a brand within 24 hours. Some 42 percent of those consumers expect a reply within an hour, and 32 percent expect a reply within 30 minutes.

Moreover, 57 percent of surveyed Twitter users expect that same level of responsiveness, regardless of time of day.

However, few brands listed on the Interbrand 100 are meeting such expectations.

On average, two-thirds (67 percent) of brands respond in less than 24 hours (via @reply); however, no brand has an average response time of less than 30 minutes, and only 9 percent respond within an hour.

Below, additional findings from Simply Measured.

Tweet levels vs. brand response times

The chart below ranks the top 10 brands with a customer service handle by the number of incoming support-related tweets over the three months. Among the brands, 90 percent are responding (via @replies) within 24 hours, on average.

@BlackBerryHelp received the most (58,600) support-related mentions during the study period. @NikeSupport and @AskAmex (American Express) followed with 42,000 and 37,900, respectively.

UPS and American Express topped the list for response times: On average, UPS reached out in 1.1 hours; American Express responded in 1.8 hours.

Hewlett Packard (@HPSupport) ranked in the top 10 for engagement (5,600 support-related mentions), but recorded a long response time: 30.2 hours, on average.

Of note, BlackBerry’s approach has been to remove service-related conversations from public view as soon as possible, first following the customer and then responding via DM (direct message). The @BlackBerryHelp account has more than 1 million followers.

In addition to handling customer service issues via the account, the company engages its audience with “how-to” content and various promotional materials, SimplyMeasured noted.

Tweet response levels

Clearly, some brands struggle to keep up with service-related traffic. Others (e.g., BlackBerry) convert inbound tweets to DMs; still other brands simply don’t respond to every tweet.

Even so, @NikeSupport led the pack in responding to service-related tweets, at 74 percent. That translates to more than 24,900 tweets via their customer service handle over the three-month study period.

Overall, the top one-third of brands responded to 61 percent of service-related tweets, whereas the bottom third responded to roughly 17 percent.

The following chart shows the full picture of the 23 brands with customer service handles on Twitter:

About the data: Findings are based on the Twitter activity of 23 customer support accounts of the Interbrand 100 from Sept. 1 through Nov. 30, 2012.

Lenna Garibian is a research writer at MarketingProfs, where a version of this article first appeared. (Image via)

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