On thinking about four years of #socialcustcare response time


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I was reading through another one of those surveys the other day where a company Tweets a number of different organisations the same question and then sees how quickly they respond (if at all). The survey this time was by Veeqo – Top 10 UK Retailers Twitter Response Times. I’ve copied the relevant part of the infographic below.


The fastest responder was B&Q at 9 minutes and the slowest (discounting John Lewis, because they didn’t answer one question) was The Co-operative at 9 hours, 3 minutes. Well done B&Q, and room for improvement The Co-operative.

I’ve always been somewhat mystified by these surveys and struggled to understand where their value truly lies, beyond a momentary escape from what I was doing. So what I thought I would do, is see if I could understand what I could learn from looking back over the last few years of these types of ‘mystery Tweeter’ surveys.

  • Would the response rate improve year on year?
  • Would different sectors perform better than others?
  • Would response rates on Twitter be faster than those on Facebook?

So here’s what I found looking at the slowest and fastest overall response times by companies on Twitter and Facebook. Times are in minutes.


Before we try to identify any meaningful insights, some of the variables that can impact response times are:

  • size of team
  • dedicated team or team forwarding tweets to the relevant department for the appropriate response
  • dedicated social customer care account
  • volume of Tweets received
  • complexity of questions or complaints
  • how often the social channels are checked
  • outsourced or inhouse

So, taking these things into account, what do the response times tell us? Well, in my mind, not a lot.

  • 2013 was not a good year for organisations
  • Results for 2011 could be more down to the fact that there were either fewer companies on Twitter than there are today or else fewer response surveys done. My guess is that it was a combination of both!
  • Whilst response times are getting better generally, there is still a large range of response times overall
  • By 2014, the best response time is down to a minute. My guess is that this company has a low volume of Tweets to respond to, rather than finding the magic formula for quickly responding to customers on Twitter and Facebook
  • Even the companies with the biggest social customer care teams have off days

If we look at this from the perspective of the customer, then a survey from 2012 – The Social Habit – trying to understand customer expectations in terms of response times shows that 42% of customers expect a response time within 60 minutes of complaining, 25% the same day, and 33% within a few days.


What this tells me is that the definition of ‘speed’ is very broad, and if anything, is perhaps highly contextual. My need for speed depends on the urgency of a given situation I find myself in, and not the pursuit of speed for speed’s sake.

For companies searching for the magic formula that will tell them how best to streamline operations, how many agents they need for frontline triage, what the ROI of social customer care is, my simple answer is this: spend your time trying to respond to your customers with empathy and trustworthiness. For these things will bring you your speed of response when it is needed, and ROI without even trying. Unfortunately, knowing how to measure them can prove elusive.

Images courtesy of Veeqo and The Social Habit.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Guy Stephens
Guy is a social customer care trainer/consultant who has been in the social customer care space since 2008. He is also the Co-founder of Snak Academy, which provides online social customer care microlearning for individuals and SMEs.


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