We have all been led to believe that social media has allowed us to get closer to companies, ask questions and then get answers.
However, it seems that this is not always the case.
A recent study by Socialbakers found that in the US, companies ignore around 80% of all questions posed to them on Twitter. Twitter is not the only platform where this is the case, but does seem to be the worst offender. Facebook responses are at around 60% for instance, but even that figure is low and because of this it's important to find out why all customer questions online aren't being answered.
With figures like these, it needs to be asked whether it is ever going to be possible to answer every question and whether this is a fair representation.
Not every question will be answered by a company, but this does not take into account some inherent truths around the use of social media as a direct customer facing tool. With thousands of potential questions being asked of a company every hour, is it possible to put together an effective strategy to answer every question effectively?
So what can companies do to make the most of their social media presence, but also respond to the questions they are going to be asked through it?
Do Not Automate
If companies were judged purely on the number of questions they answered then they would simply add an automated response to their tweets. However, it has been shown that this can often be a worse option than simply not responding at all.
Offering a generic response that does not answer questions directly is going to incense people as they will feel that their concerns are simply being trivialized rather than taken seriously.
Essentially, hearing nothing is better than a generic answer that has not taken your exact question into consideration.
Have Effective Manpower
When questions are asked, the problem is not that the company is unconcerned about them, but simply that being able to respond to every one is going to be next to impossible with too few people.
To make sure that this is not the case, and that there are people who can answer questions, having the effective manpower available is going to be key. Gone are the days when it was just the office intern who used to man the social media accounts, today there are often teams of tens of people who concentrate on them, responding to questions and posting original content.
Companies need to guarantee they are not simply using each of these team members to push out new content, the reality is that they need to be able to effectively listen rather than just talk.
Filter And Give Responsibility
One of the aspects that often stops people from responding is that the tweets are not necessarily being sent to the right places.
When a company has significant numbers of departments which deal with customer queries, the variety of potential questions increases significantly. Therefore, having the ability to filter these questions and then make sure they are being answered by the correct people allows for them to be answered more frequently and to a far better standard.
In order for this to be a success it is also important that the responsibility of answering specific questions is given to somebody. It creates a situation where, if a question is unanswered, it is possible to pinpoint who has not done so.
The numbers from this study initially seem to point towards a general apathy for companies using Twitter to answer customer questions, but this is perhaps misleading. According to Socialbakers - ‘On Twitter, a question is any tweet that includes a brand's Twitter handle and a question mark. On Facebook, it's a wall post on a brand's Page’. With this definition it is not certain that these are questions directly towards the company or just a tweet that mentions them and a question.
For instance, I could tweet a colleague saying ‘Hey, are you going to the @iegroup conference later?’ and it would not be an unanswered question as it would not need answering by the company itself. It means that although 80% of ‘questions’ may go unanswered, it may not tell the full story.
Despite this, it is always going to be worth looking at how your responses can be improved as ultimately the quicker you can answer a customer’s question, the happier your customer is likely to be.