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Retail Companies: Ignore Twitter at Your Own Risk


Less than half of tweets from customers are getting answers.

MINYANVILLE ORIGINAL Twitter has revolutionized the way that public figures and companies relate to the general public, but many consumer-oriented companies are neglecting the medium as a way to interact with customers.

Stella Service, a company that rates online retailers, used mystery shoppers to tweet customer service requests to top online retailers and logged their response times. The companies involved in the survey included Amazon (AMZN), Dell (DELL), Wal-Mart (WMT), Hewlett-Packard (HPQ), BestBuy (BBY), (OSTK), and Gap (GPS), among others.

After the top five listed above, service drops off for the rest of the companies surveyed, according to Stella CEO Jordy Leiser. This does not bode well for those companies. Leiser points to a survey by American Express (AXP) that shows how vocal the social media-addled demographic can be. Social media users are more likely to relay both positive and negative experiences to friends than the general population. They are more likely to shop online and more than 80% have abandoned purchases due to bad customer service, compared to 55% in the wider population.

"Companies that are serious about giving customers the highest quality customer service should take a close look at how they manage Twitter interactions because the nature of the medium calls for fast and efficient communication," Leiser says. "Even if you are a huge company, you can be savvy."

Of course, this requires investment.

"You need to put the people in the seats to manage this," Leiser says.

Amazon subsidiary came out as a leader in Twitter-based customer interface, and there is no secret how they did it. Zappos employs 500 people to handle customer correspondence and has five staffers manning the company's Twitter feed. Zappos even parses Twitter for possible misspellings of "Zappos" to try to answer customers even if they aren't tweeting directly at Zappos customer service.

In this respect, Zappos is a bit like an India-based startup that Minyanville met with at TechCrunch Disrupt last month called FreshDesk, a service that aggregates Facebook (FB), Twitter, and email comments into one help desk feed. FreshDesk gives users an option to turn all mentions of a company on social media into a support ticket to see if users are noticing a problem that they aren't contacting the help desk about.

Ironically, new media companies are terrible with user questions. Have you ever tried to call Facebook or Google (GOOG) to resolve an issue? You might be better off just fuming on Twitter.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett
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No positions in stocks mentioned.
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