How Fine Is The Line Between Service and Stalker?

How Fine Is The Line Between Service and Stalker?

Anecdotally, we know that an increasing number companies are providing customer service via social media. Clearly, however, many businesses have missed the “social is the new telephone” memo, as a report from Maritz last fall indicated that 70% of customer complaints on Twitter go unanswered.

But is that still true? And even if customer complaints are answered on Twitter (and elsewhere in social), are they handled satisfactorily?

We’re going to find out in the next edition of The Social Habit, our comprehensive quarterly examination of social media in the U.S., run by Edison Research with cheerleading and analysis from me, Jason Falls, and Mark Schaefer.

Is Social Service Better?

We take it as a sort of pseudo-gospel that social media customer service provision is inherently superior to old-fashioned email and telephone (even letter writing, if you’re a Mennonite with a buggy problem).

Why do we believe that? Is it because social media customer service is faster? But is it faster? Or maybe, is it too fast?

In The Social Habit, we’ll be asking 3,000 randomly selected and carefully sampled consumers a ton of questions, including these three:

Customer Service Channel Preference

In general, how would you prefer for a brand, product or company to respond to your customer service or
support request. Please rank the following in order of preference:

  • Telephone
  • Email
  • Facebook
  • Twitter

This will be very interesting, to see side-by-side consumer preferences for support mechanism. Should be some interesting cr0ss-tabs by age and social network usage. Maybe even by gender? Is it possible that men prefer Twitter customer service because they don’t have to actually talk to anyone? Hmmm. Let’s find out!

Incidence of Social Support Requests

Have you ever attempted to contact a brand, product or company through social media for customer service/support?

  • Yes
  • No

I tend to believe that all of us social media professionals are drinking the “social is the new telephone” Kool-Aid, that a relatively small percentage of consumers actually seek support via social.

Time Horizon Porridge

In general, how soon after you contact a brand, product or company on social media do you expect to receive a

  • Within 5 minutes
  • Between 6 and 15 minutes
  • Between 16 and 30 minutes
  • Between 31 minutes and 1 hour
  • More than 1 hour, but later that same day
  • Within a few days or so

This is where the stalker provision comes into play, as well as the differences between mentioning a brand and expressly requesting help. If I tweet “I sure do like Don Julio tequila” and they respond on Twitter in five seconds, am I delighted, or creeped out like I am when staring at Joan Rivers’ unchanged-regardless-of-emotion face mask? Alternatively, if I tweet “there’s a fly in my Don Julio, how do I get a replacement bottle?” I am clearly asking for help, and does my expectation of the reply time horizon change?

Some companies are spending considerable staff time and software expense providing social media customer service, but does it match up with what consumers actually WANT?

I can’t wait to find out.

To be the first to know, purchase one of  The Social Habit packages.

About the Author

Jay Baer is a social and content strategist, keynote speaker, and author. He's consulted with more than 700 companies since 1994, including 29 of the FORTUNE 500. He's the co-author of the social business book The NOW Revolution: 7 Shifts to Make Your Business Faster, Smarter, and More Social


  1. Brandon says:

    Interesting this article came up, it’s something ive been wondering for a while. As the person who handles the Social activity of GO Outdoors we not only respond to questions/mentions we also respond to those who haven’t mentioned us by twitter handle but have in their tweet, It hadn’t occurred this could seem ‘stalkerish’, but the responses received have always been far more positive than negative.

    We also find that customers come to us via Social Media to complain if they haven’t received a response from our actual customer service team in a time they deem satisfactory. It’s perhaps become the stop gap between an angry customer and an online scathing review on a forum about us.

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