October 29, 2013, 3:37 PM

J.C. Penney leads in resolving complaints on social media

The retailer rarely deflects shoppers to other customer service channels, a study says.

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J.C. Penney Co. Inc. leads other retailers in resolving shoppers’ customer service issues posted on Twitter, according to a new report from Conversocial Ltd.

The social media customer service vendor examined how 10 U.S. retailers, along with four airlines, five telecommunications companies, seven finance companies and three restaurant groups, responded to customer service inquiries on Twitter over a one-week period in August.

The report found that most shoppers who reach out to retailers via Twitter want to have their issues resolved on the social network, rather than being directed to the merchant’s call center or given its e-mail address. Only 2% of the customer service-related posts sought information on how to contact the brand in other channels. Moreover, 19% of the consumers noted in their posts that they had already tried to get their issues resolved in a different channel.

“Social is often used a last resort by customers who have failed to obtain a resolution in other channels,” writes Joshua March, Conversocial CEO and founder, in a blog post.

J.C. Penney, No. 34 in the 2013 Top 500 Guide referred only 1.72% of shoppers’ tweets to another channel, the lowest percentage among retailers in the study. Lowes Co. Inc., No. 44, was on the other end of the spectrum. It referred 23.01% of its shoppers to contact it in other channels. Lowe’s did not immediately comment on the study.

On average, the 10 retailers in the study —which included Bed Bath & Beyond Inc., No. 210, and Wal-Mart Stores Inc., No. 4—redirected 9% of tweets to another channel.  83% of the redirected tweets asked shoppers to e-mail the retailer while 17% suggested the consumer call a contact center.

Retailers can help avoid frustrating shoppers by making sure shoppers know their hours of operation and by making clear on their Twitter descriptions what types of issues they can resolve on social media, the report suggests. Only four of the retailers in the study provided information as to what types of issues they can handle on Twitter.

There are consequences for retailers that fail to provide good customer service via social media, finds a new related report by social marketing vendor Lithium Technologies. 53% of Twitter users said they expect a brand to respond to their tweets in less than an hour. That percentage rises to 72% when shoppers have customer service complaints. And when retailers fail to meet their expectations, 60% said they will take “unpleasant actions” to express their dissatisfaction such as posting negative comments on Twitter.



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