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Twitter Experiment with 14 Largest US Brands Yields Dismal Results

January 14, 2013

Getting the attention of a large company or bank today is more than a little challenging. While you can certainly pick up the phone and call – itself sometimes a challenge – many customers today are turning to social media as a way of handling their problems.

After all, it makes sense: while a company providing poor service on the telephone is irritating only the customer, a company providing poor service on social media risks alienating all others who see those posts: Facebook (News - Alert) friends, LinkedIn colleagues and Twitter followers.

To see what kind of customer service large companies are providing via popular social media channels, Software Advice, in conjunction with CIO, recently conducted an experiment using Twitter (News - Alert). Software Advice employees sent customer service tweets via their personal accounts to 14 leading consumer brands in seven industries.

The goal was to test the speed, efficiency and quality of the brands' replies to tweeting customers.

Each company was tweeted by an employee once each week day for four consecutive weeks. (A total of 280 Tweets were sent over 26 days.) The companies tweeted include fast food restaurants, beverage companies such as Coca-Cola and Pepsico, major credit card companies like MasterCard and Visa, large banks (Wells Fargo (News - Alert) and Bank of America), big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Home Depot, tech companies (Apple and HP) and personal care products companies such as Gillette and Colgate.

Each tweet fell into one of five categories: urgent help needed, positive feedback, negative feedback, technical help and a question from the companies’ FAQ pages.

For the first and third weeks, the four employees used the brands' Twitter handles (e.g., @brandname), which ensured that Twitter would notify the companies that they were called out in a tweet. For the second and fourth weeks, the tweets mentioned only the brand name—not the handle, the website Marketing Profs is reporting this week.

The employees measured the responses on two criteria: the time it took to receive a response, and the percentage of Tweets that received a response. The results were not very encouraging.

Overall, companies responded to only 14 percent of the Tweets. Of the restaurants, Starbucks did not respond at all (neither did Visa, Wal-Mart or Apple). Of the companies that did respond, no company responded to more than 35 percent of the Tweets (Bank of America took the lead at 35 percent), and most companies that did respond did so to fewer than 20 percent of the Tweets. (See an infographic summarizing the results on the site here.)

While companies are certainly aware that they ought to be paying better attention to social media contacts – after all, one of the employees had more than 1,300 followers – it seems that many either still aren’t properly equipped to track and handle social media, or simply don’t yet grasp the importance.

So next time you’re expecting a response to an important consumer issue, it seems likely that it’s still a better course of action to pick up the telephone. At least until Corporate America really begins to understand what the rest of us expect when it comes to social media.


Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, Jan 29- Feb. 1 in Miami, Florida.  Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO. Follow us on Twitter.




Edited by Braden Becker

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