Surprising piece of information: there is currently no existing standard for the acceptable customer service response time on social media. Bet you didn’t see that coming. There is a wall-to-wall consensus on the effective amount of weekly status updates and Tweets, but the subject of response time is still being debated in terms of comparison metrics and user expectations.
My theory on this is that we’re still in the process of figuring out what social media’s place is in customer service. When we call helpdesk on the phone or go on chat support we enter conversation mode. We expect the reaction time to be measured in seconds. When we create a ticket or send an email to the support team, on the other hand, we are much more generous with our expectations. It is sometimes reasonable to wait half a day for an email response, especially when different time zones are involved. In fact, answering an email too quickly can reflect badly on the responder.
Customer support on social media is an odd duck in this regard: on one hand, we are not officially in a live conversation with anyone. On the other hand, a momentum is built through quick responses, creating a public conversation-like interaction. The openness of it all is also what enables a public examination of reaction time which, in turns, enables customers to demand speedy response. You better be there on New Year’s morning to answer an impatient prospect, or else it will look really bad on your wall.
There are general guidelines most service providers should align with, in regard to customer service on social platforms: Paul Sutton claims up to an hour on Twitter is more than enough response time; under ten minutes, however, is also a goal to aspire to and an hour is also more or less the expected customer support response time on Facebook.
Customer service on social media has made users less patient, less tolerant and less courteous about service conditions. Brands and service providers are under constant scrutiny, their social platforms often acting as a display window. The traditional ways to improve customer service do not apply in this game. The big names can afford not to respond to a Facebook complainer but lean, understaffed SMBs often suffer the wrath of users with up-to-date expectations. Don’t let that be your downfall. Pour as many resources as possible into managing your social platforms, because in 2014, they are your business card as well as your customer support platform.