April 9, 2012, 11:58 AM

Few retailers face up to the customer service aspect of Facebook

25% of retailers ignore questions posed on their own Facebook pages, a report says. 

Zak Stambor

Managing Editor

Lead Photo

A quarter of e-retailers failed to respond to consumer questions posted on the retailers’ Facebook walls and also within the comments section of a merchant’s own posts, according to a new report from StellaService. The customer service vendor arrived at its finding by posing general questions to 20 retailers on the social network.

The findings come as consumers increasingly turn to social media to get answers from retailers about customer service issues. 27% of U.S. online consumers sought help through an online community last year, up from 7% in 2009, Forrester Research Inc. said in a recent survey. The StellaService report suggests that a number of retailers haven’t adjusted to that shift in consumer behavior.

Five retailers—J. Crew Group Inc., One Kings Lane, RadioShack Corp., Rue La La and Victoria’s Secret Direct—failed to respond within 48 hours  of a question being posted on the their walls, StellaService found. 13 retailers failed to respond within 48 hours of a question being posted within the comments section of their own posts.

Five retailers—Fab.com, Cooking.com, Crate and Barrel, Victoria’s Secret and Rue La La—deleted consumers’ questions without answering them. The report calls that a mistake, as several consumers might have the same question and a merchant’s response could resolve multiple shoppers’ issues in a single stroke.

Some retailers were quick to reply. B & H Foto & Electronics Corp. responded to questions within two minutes. The electronics retailer, along with Gap Inc., Bed, Bath & Beyond, JackThreads.com, and Williams-Sonoma Inc., were the only retailers that hit all the right marks in the report, responding to questions on their walls, as well as in comments, and not deleting those inquiries.

“For service and support-oriented companies to open themselves up and extend themselves to their Facebook brand page, they have to accept that their customers are there,” says Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction Inc., which offers an application that helps retailers respond to customer service issues on Facebook. Those consumers are going to ask retailers questions, she says, and merchants can’t afford not to respond.

Lauren Freedman, president of consulting firm the E-tailing Group Inc. will speak during a session entitled “What shoppers want: Listening in on the consumer voice” at the 2012 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago in June.

Comments | 2 Responses

  • This research highlights a common issue – once committed to social care, organizations often struggle with handling the volume of questions. At TELUS International, we recently released a whitepaper which suggests that while the magnitude of conversations can seem overwhelming, in reality not all social conversations require a response. We recommend that retailers should prioritize relevant social conversations from inappropriate or extraneous chatter. Technology platforms are evolving to score posts based on relevance, urgency, and influence: conversations requiring immediate attention are prioritized and no time is wasted manually sifting through hundreds of posts to identify critical customer concerns. Al Rose, VP Retail and Internet Properties, TELUS International, @TELUSint

  • Totally agree with Wendy Lea's quote about if you are going to put your brand on Facebook, you have to be responsive to your customers that then choose to interact with you via that channel. But it also begs the upstream question, should retailers even be on Facebook? Is there sufficient business value to extending yourself into the inherently non-commercial space that social represents? Social is... well, social. Evidence that a revenue driven rationale exists remains fleeting. If there is a customer service rational (not clear how many of the 27% cited in the article were using FB pages and/or weren't adequately served by other options) then doubly shame on the companies Stella Service found falling down on the job. The "obvious" answer is to better integrate their Facebook presence into their CS work flows so these customers aren't ignored. The less obvious answer might be to pull back from Facebook. If the business value isn't compelling enough to warrant these company's attention, it suggests that might be the case.

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