How Quickly do you Respond to Customers?

One issue we’re currently working on here at Thrifty Foods is the response times to our customers when they reach out to us on social media.

It’s been on our radar for some time to integrate our customer care division with our social media team.

Issues we continue to discuss and consider moving forward are: do our customers expect a response from us at 10pm? Can we reasonably provide the same level of service as our retail locations do – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week?

There is a lot of research out there about customer service and social media.  I’ve been weighing a lot the information compiled in this great blog post by Heidi Cohen – for those of us that manage a corporate brand’s social media presence – it gives us lots to think about.  Here are some of the highlights:

  • 1 in 6 consumers on Facebook expect a response to their questions in under 30 minutes
  • Although half the average response time is 26 hours from brands, over half of customers expect a same-day or sooner response
  • Facebook is the #1 social network customers expect businesses to answer their questions (surprisingly, Twitter ranked 4th, but this study is from last year and I suspect it would rank higher now)

If you’re not meeting these timelines, don’t feel too badly.  According to this post on Social Bakers, 25% of brands have shut down their wall, so customers can’t even leave a question or comment!  25%!! Talk about missing the point entirely!

We try and respond to someone within 4 hours (but hopefully much sooner).  If they post at 10pm at night, is this reasonable?  At that hour, there are two of us  who have notifications  popping up on our iPhones – and rest assured if it’s something out of the ordinary, or a recall, we’re watching and listening.

Any other community managers out there?  How quickly do you respond to customer inquiries or comments on your social media channels?  Leave a comment below or let’s chat in 2 weeks at camp!

Content: Don’t Just Sell – Mix it UP

If you work daily in social media – you’re probably always thinking: “what should I talk about – and how – without constantly sounding like I am selling my product?”.

On your company’s Facebook or Twitter (or any other social media platform), what DO you talk about?  It’s a good idea to stay within your brand’s parameters, so that your audience gets what they came for.  Insider tips, free stuff, sneak peeks … try to make them feel like they are part of your club, a real VIP.

We often create a conversation with our Facebook fans just to hear what they’re thinking – sometimes specifically for market research.  We also know that having these conversations increases our Edgerank – the elusive power of maintaining your spot in your audience’s newsfeed.  Most importantly, it creates a conversation with our audience as well as creating conversations between our audience members (and sometimes a healthy debate!).

This blog post, which discusses a recent Forrester study, says only 15% of North Americans trust posts by brands on social media.  If you’re not posting to create a relationship with your audience and talk to them (instead of selling to them), you’re missing the boat.

It’s a struggle though – you have a great sale and you want to talk about it.  At Thrifty Foods, we don’t publish our flyer to Facebook, but we do post the occasional weekend sale.  We try and make our posts a conversation about food – with the odd post that is a direct message.  When we have new products – we want to talk about them!  We try and make it a mix (some weeks are tougher than others to mix it up).

There’s always a post that garners more engagement than we expect.  For example, we marked Anti-Bullying Day on February 27 by wearing our t-shirts, and posted photos from some stores and our head office on our Facebook page.  The photos were in the top 5 of engagement for the month!

Of course, it’s not always about the subject matter of the post – but the content and format too.   Generally speaking web links receive the least amount of interaction – photos and video the most.  The best way is trial and error – learn as you go.  Do you have any tips to share?

Nerd Alert: Reporting about Reports

I’m not being paid to say this – I promise – but I have fallen in love with web and social media reports.  Looking at what worked, how many clicks a photo or piece of content received, how many people shared something we posted.  Specifically, the reports that are generated by Sprout Social have made my reporting life easier.  I’ve tried many of the other platforms out there, but the interface of the reports and simplicity of generating them has me hooked.

Yes, at $59 a month, Sprout Social might be more than many small businesses want to spend on a social media platform (it doesn’t just do reporting, there’s scheduling, tracking your conversations and more).  There are many other cheaper (and free) options out there: Hootsuite is a great free option, and they have pro version for only $10 per month.  Facebook Insights also has a lot of great info but can be frustrating when you want to go back further than a week for some data.

As a customer of Sprout (again – not being paid!), I can access Facebook reports, Twitter comparison reports (aren’t we all keeping an eye on our competitors?), Google Analytics, and every place page for every store we have.  I could write a whole blog post about Facebook places and my never-ending hope that they will integrate them into our business page….anyway, moving on.

Here’s some of the things you can discover through your reports on Sprout Social:

  • How many impressions you get on Facebook by gender, location, and day of the week
  • Demographic info on who is sharing your Facebook content
  • The percentage of your tweets that are conversations with people vs. updates
  • How many of your Twitter conversations happen with new contacts vs. people you have previously engaged with

Best part: easy to use, and all the reports are included in my monthly package with no limitation on how many reports I can generate.  Using Sprout has cut back the time spent on reporting every month to our leadership team.  They’re also easy to read for someone who doesn’t spend their days entrenched in social media – major bonus.

Reporting is vital – if it’s for a team of colleagues or just for you and your small business.  How will you know what posts are engaging to your audience, being shared the most, or driving traffic to your website without taking a look at your reports?

I know many of you have tools you love to use for reporting – please share the names of your favourites!

Are you a Facebook Rule Breaker?

Facebook has a lot of rules if you’re running a page…and just about every page out there is breaking them.  After reading this great blog post about what Facebook should be doing to improve the platform for brands, it got me thinking about how we run our page at Thrifty Foods.  Is it worth following Facebook’s rules?

Many, MANY businesses do not adhere to Facebook’s promotion guidelines.  For those of us that do, we live in fear of Facebook shutting down our pages; all the fans we’ve painstakingly amassed, gone forever and having to start over.  At the bottom of the promotion guidelines Facebook clearly states: We reserve the right to reject or remove Pages for any reason. These terms are subject to change at any time. GULP.

So what about all those people who are breaking the rules without consequence?  Facebook has driven businesses small and large to spend money on advertising as the way to grow their audience, but breaking the rules is an easy out to continue growth with no ad spend.  Those of us that (mostly) follow the rules lose, but Facebook loses too with loss of ad revenue.  Hard to imagine they will let this go on much longer.

Many marketers, myself included, continue to spend money on 3rd party applications to run promotions to stay within the guidelines; watching as their competitors break the rules and run similar campaigns for free.  Not to mention many of these 3rd party apps are clunky, can malfunction, are expensive, and most don’t work on mobile phones.  It can be very frustrating.

Are you running a cover image with more than 20% text or sale info such as “50% off”? Have text that says “Like” or “Share” in the cover image? How about a promotion that requires your audience to like or share a piece of content to enter?  Are you running 3rd party advertising on your page? If so, you’re breaking the rules.

How about the fake pages that are impersonating celebrities and doing giveaways?  This fake Ellen Show profile giving away iPhones has been making the rounds.  I wonder if those winners will ever see their phones….hmmmmm.

I’ve never heard of anyone getting their page shut down by Facebook.  We recently danced on the line with a campaign on our page, and I only risked it knowing many similar campaigns on other pages had been run with no consequence.

Are you a Facebook rule breaker?  I’d love to know if you’ve ever heard from Facebook about your rule-breaking ways (don’t worry, it will be our little secret).

A Happy Moment that Started on Twitter

Stories about social media screw ups and mistakes often get shared and giggled at, so to counter all of the war stories, here’s an example of social media success, a tale of a fun moment we had a few weeks ago.

Do you know what a Feijoa is?  I can say for certain that I had never heard of it until recently, when a customer asked us through our Thrifty Foods twitter account if we stocked them.

A quick Google search later and I discovered that it’s a funky flowering plant (!) and fruit tree that looks a little like a kiwi without the fuzz (to my eyes anyway).

My next step was to get in touch with one of our resident produce experts. I couldn’t find the Feijoa for sale in our stores. It turns out that this was not a regularly stocked fruit, but he could order it in for this customer.  I got in touch with her, asked her which store she location she shops at, and passed her contact info to our produce team so they could get in touch her when the product arrived at her store.

In most cases, that’s the end of the story for me as the community manager – I never hear from the customer again.  Happily, this time we did get an update once these Feijoas found their new home.

As it turns out, the customer worked for Trapeze, a local Marketing and Advertising Agency, and they shared the story of her search for the Feijoa on their Facebook page.  A New Zealander, Jeanne had been looking for this fruit that is popular in her homeland and was tickled when we brought it in especially for her.

We do what we can to respond to customer’s tweets and messages to make them happy.  A team of co-workers helps with the carry through, especially in this case.  It was so fun to see this customer so happy – can’t we all use a little good news once in a while?

Using Social Media in a Recall

If you’ve been following these posts I’ve shared, I recently posted the story about working through the public outcry when we brought back plastic bags to some of our stores.  A similar, but in many ways different, example of this was the XL beef recall last September.

If the early days of our foray into Facebook, we didn’t post information about recalls.  At the time – spring 2010, which is a 100 years ago in social media – we left the spread of information to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and the media.

Since then, we have taken to being as transparent as possible and sharing information as soon as it’s available with our customers.

Initially, we were not a part of XL recall so this was the message we communicated via social networks, on the web, in-store and over the phone to our customers.  Our parent company, Sobeys, was affected so there was some confusion with media reports naming Sobeys and not Thrifty Foods, so we were doing our best to clarify this.

As the recall expanded, other cuts of beef were included, and so were we.  After telling our customers we were not affected, we had to do a quick turnaround and tell them some of our stores did have product that was included.

This wasn’t a conversation that was only taking place online – our customer care team was taking dozens of phone calls.  When we found out we were included, customers were skeptical that we were not initially being forthcoming with information (which was not the case, we really did not have indication we were included in the recall), and then we were implicated, even more skepticism came our way.  All our digital properties were being updated to share the story, and support our customer care team in their conversations with our valued customers.

When these recalls happen, we take direction from the CFIA.  We were open and honest with our customers and responded as quickly as possible when we were advised our products were part of the recall.  I spent a Sunday morning at Granville Island tethering my laptop to my phone to update Facebook and our website when we discovered we were affected.

Patience and responsiveness is key – there were many questions to answer, posts to respond to, and social media is not a 9-5 job in cases like these.  As we now know, this was a nationwide public health event, and we did what we could to keep the lines of communication open.

Changing course mid-conversation was challenging but we were sharing the information as it came to us.  Transparency and timeliness are essential when handling a situation like this – knowing you have shared information as quickly and effectively as possible is the only way to get through it.