Survey: Response to Customers Too Slow in the Social Media Age

Today’s consumers—and association members—expect their questions to be answered, like, yesterday. But research shows that in email and even real-time social media channels, organizational response can feel like it moves at a snail’s pace. How well are associations performing against member expectations?

How long is too long for a customer to wait for a response to an email inquiry?

Nearly 60 percent of companies take eight or more hours to respond, according to data collected by KANA Software from a survey of Call Centre Association members, and in a world where social media provides to-the-second updates and answers, that’s not going to cut it.

This is true even if you’re a small association without the resources of a Fortune 500 company, said Thad Lurie, CAE, managing director at Old Town IT.

“Like it or not, consumers are used to dealing with large organizations that have the resources to be effective in social media, and that’s their expectation.”

“As with many things, the expectations of our members are changing, and that drives what we need to do in order to provide them with an effective value proposition,” said Lurie. “Like it or not, consumers are used to dealing with large organizations that have the resources to be effective in social media, and that’s their expectation—a very high-level, high-pleasure experience.”

While email remains an important consumer or member touchpoint, a separate survey from social media customer service platform Conversocial found that more than 80 percent of companies are responding to comments or complaints on Twitter and Facebook, and half rely solely on social channels to resolve service issues. In its “Social Customer Service Performance Report,” [PDF] released in July, the group also found that while more than half of consumers expect a response via social media within two hours, the average response time for the top 100 retailers on Twitter is 11 hours and 15 minutes. Only 20 percent of companies fell into the acceptable time period, while 19 percent didn’t respond at all.

So how are associations doing with member relations through their social channels?

“Social media is a challenge for associations,” Lurie said. “They’ve put their toes into the swimming pool to test the temperature, but the tricky part is that if you have a social media presence, you have to have a social media presence. They want to start slowly, [with] low-risk exposure, but then that’s not an optimal experience for their members.”

An effective social media presence is all about planning, Lurie added. “It involves reasonably managed expectations so that the organization knows what it’s trying to accomplish.”

Lurie compared the current growth of social media to the proliferation of websites more than a decade ago. “Associations didn’t realize that websites were going to become the primary public face of the organization,” he said. “This is another public facet. You have to similarly do strategic thinking and planning for how you’re going to handle it, and what your expectations and goals are.”

The key to it all is having the right policies and people in place to drive the organization’s social strategy.

“You have to empower the policy, and you have to empower somebody to enact and execute that policy,” Lurie said. “You can’t just go to your 22-year-old intern and say, ‘Can you set up our social media?’ They don’t have the wherewithal or the clout within the organization when somebody does complain to them on social media that they can take immediate action or elicit some sort of favorable response.”

And resources will always pose a challenge, said Lurie. “The question is, how do we provide members with something that they will be happy with, while at the same time not beggaring ourselves by spending too much in the way of resources? It’s about finding that balance and doing it in a thoughtful manner.”

Have you identified effective tools or work processes to help you respond to members in email and social media? Share your tips in the comments.


Rob Stott

By Rob Stott

Rob Stott is a contributing editor for Associations Now. MORE

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