Customer Response Times: Might Take Hours Via Social, Seconds By Phone

About two-thirds of companies using social customer service claim to respond in 4 hours or less, and 26% within a day, according to October 2012 findings by SocialMediaToday, in cooperation with SAP and the Pivot Conference. Customers who want a quicker answer to their questions might want to think about picking up the phone. Results from an Ifbyphone study [pdf] released in November indicate that a majority of top retailers answer inbound local calls in less than 30 seconds and corporate-level calls in under 90 seconds.

The element of expectation does play into the social media and phone responsiveness comparison, to be sure. Consumers aren’t yet conditioned to receive immediate responses via social media, but they do expect to reach representatives by phone extremely quickly. In fact, an Ifbyphone study released in May found that 84% of respondents reported being either likely or very likely to do business with a brand if they responded to a phone call in less than a minute, while just 53% indicated that likelihood if they had to wait for longer than a minute, a 58% difference.

The latest Ifbyphone research was carried out by 3 independent secret shoppers who measured the amount of time it took brands to answer a customer phone inquiry at both local and corporate locations. The brands analyzed were STORES Magazine’s top 100 retail brands from 2011.

Some Brands Don’t Meet Expectations

The study found that the average response time at the local level was 34 seconds, but that 14 brands took longer than 1 minute to respond. Considering the earlier research showing that customers are 58% more likely to do business with a company if they get through in less than a minute, this suggests that these brands are missing out on significant business opportunities.

Ifbyphone’s “Phone Responsiveness Index Report” found a large variety between the best and worst performers in terms of local phone response times. For example, RadioShack, which boasted the quickest average response time at the local level – of 3 seconds – fared far better than Ruddick Corp., which took an average of 3 minutes and 32 seconds to respond.

Brands were slower to respond to corporate-level calls. While a majority picked up the phone in under 90 seconds, another reading of the data shows that nearly two-thirds took more than that threshold 60 second mark, taking between 1 and 8 minutes to respond. Again, there was significant variation by brand. Menard, which picked up the top ranking for corporate-level response time (9 seconds), was much quicker than Sherman Williams (8 minutes).