Ignored For The Holidays

As we turn the corner on Veteran’s Day, the next big holiday on the horizon is Thanksgiving.  For those of us in the US, Thanksgiving used to be the kickoff to the holiday season – Christmas, Hanukah, and other major holidays for most of us.   That, of course, is no long true, since as of September 2015, a staggering 59% of US and UK retailers had kicked off their annual holiday ad blitz.  More ads lead, hopefully, to more customers, and more customers means more inbound customer service messaging,  

The folks at Sprout Social looked into how well retailers are dealing with these messages, and the answer, unfortunately, is not very well:

Given that people are taking to Facebook and Twitter in droves to get answers about products and services, one might assume that retailers would allocate more resources to social customer care. In reality, retailers are choosing to ignore customers’ questions—answering only 1 in 6 messages promptly—while making the lucky few people who do get their attention wait an average of 12 hours for a response (up from 11 hours in 2014). This delay provides little relief during what is already a stressful time for many.

In other words, 83% of the time, the customer is ignored.  So if, as the study found, the typical retailer can expect 1,500 inbound messages from consumers, fewer than 300 of them receive a reply. What’s worse is that it’s not as if the retailers are ignoring the social channel.  Not at all.  Instead of replying to the customer complaints, what are they doing?  Why, sending out more messages about themselves, of course. Rather than focusing on people’s concerns, retail brands send out 3 times as many promotional messages, (deals, coupons and product merchandising,) as they do helpful responses.

There are so many things wrong here, and if you’ve been here on the screed before it will all sound too familiar.  Ignoring customer outreach  83% of the time is only the tip of the error iceberg.  Using a social channel – they’re made for conversation, folks – to send broadcast messages is bad.  Sending those messages more than 3 times as often as you actually deal with what is on a consumer’s mind is much worse.

If this is how retailers wish their customers a happy holiday, I’m thinking Scrooge is running their business.  Who is running yours?

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