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Don't expect quick responses from retailers on social media, study says

It’s become common practice when you have a problem at a restaurant, need to change your cellphone service, or can’t figure out why your cable isn’t working, to contact the service provider or retailer through social media. A quick tweet or Facebook post to the company would seem to lead to more immediate responses and more efficient resolutions than the olden days of sitting on the phone or in a line at the store for hours. However, according to the Q4 Sprout Social Index, quicker service isn’t always what customers get when contacting businesses through social media.

In fact, according to the data, there’s a greater chance your message will be ignored rather than addressed. In September, 59 percent of retailers in the U.S. and U.K. had already launched holiday shopping campaigns. It’s during the holiday season when messages increase and customers need the most assistance from retailers. However, it is during the holiday shopping season that retailers are more likely to ignore customer questions and concerns.

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Many shoppers don’t get a response at all, and 83 percent of social media messages are unanswered within 72 hours – not the kind of speedy response we expect online. Especially if you consider the old-school method of calling customer service. While often inconvenient and resulting in being passed from one representative to the next, resolution might take hours but never as many as 72.

Even after the holidays have passed and things slow down, customers send fewer messages, but out of 40 percent requiring a response, only 17 percent actually get one — which works out to about a one-in-six chance of getting assistance via social media.

Although it’s clear retailers are missing the mark on customer care through social media, they’ve increasingly become similar to those pesky spammers, sending out three times more promotion-related content through the year, than actual replies to customers.

It’s no secret that customers are happier and more inclined to stick with brands that build relationships with them, even online. According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs (also referenced in Sprout Social’s data), since 26 percent of customers with bad experiences post negative comments on social, it might be wise for brands to consider addressing more customer concerns and sending out fewer for promotional efforts.