If you hold true the notion that being responsive to online customer questions, complaints and feedback is an essential core tenet of good social media marketing, then you should consider your response time a valuable success metric. Being fast (and first) to respond to the online conversation, particularly when it turns bad, is a critical component of online customer service and an engaged social business.

The fast food industry certainly appreciates response time. The word “fast” is in the description of their market segment. Those computer monitors that hang from the ceilings behind counters at McDonald’s, Chick-Fil-A and the like primarily display the orders yet to be filled, but secondarily also flash how long it has been since the order was placed to keep the staff focused on their basic unique selling proposition: fast.

I took a few minutes to plug several restaurants into Expion, an enterprise social media management solution focused on franchise and multiple location businesses. They are a client of mine and their back-end analytics offer a pretty amazing ability to pull information about your competitor’s activity on Facebook and Twitter and allow you to compare, analyze, etc.

Response time Expion
Looking across a landscape of fast food offerings including McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Chick-Fil-A, Burger King, Tim Horton’s, Hardee’s, Arby’s, Subway, Quizno’s, Panera Bread and A&W, we find some interesting correlations. For the time frame of Jan. 1 through Jan. 17 of this year, Wendy’s, Pizza Hut and Chick-Fil-A all had average first-time responses under 1:30. All three have over 1,100 fan posts on their wall. No other restaurants were close in fan post volume. One could correlate that the more responsive a brand is, the more engaged their fans are.

Wendy’s has an astonishing 20-minute response time to over 6,000 posts (17.6 percent of the 37K posts in the first two weeks of January). Of course, the restaurant’s FryForAll promotion and application accounts for the lion’s share of their posts, but still. Some 225 entries on Wendy’s Facebook page have been deemed negative by Expion’s keyword filters and the restaurant is there to offer a response.

Pizza Hut is victimized by Facebook Wall spammers quite a bit and doesn’t seem to do a very good job of moderating or controlling the issue. They responded to nine percent of all fan posts in about 1:15. Their response to the negative posts, however, was just 24 minutes, so nice steppin’ up.

Chick-Fil-A has an impressive 37.2% response rate for all wall posts — highest among those I looked at. They also responded to 56 percent of those deemed negative (behind Quizno’s, Subway and Arby’s). But only Quizno’s matched their 55 minue response time. It took Arby’s almost 11 hours.

Keep in mind, this is just me plugging in some corporate brand pages and seeing what’s there. There was nothing scientific about this comparison and no, I didn’t investigate all of the activity on each page to see if there were anomalies or explanations for the activity, outside of seeing what the disparity was for the Wendy’s activity. Five of the restaurants listed have more than one million Facebook fans/likes, (A&W was the smallest with 80K+) so we’re also dealing with a huge potential audience. Your brand will likely differ.

But being responsive is a core component to many social media marketing efforts. And these cursory numbers show there might just be a correlation between responsiveness and engagement. (At least more statistically than just the anecdotal ones we would tend to assume, right?)

While response time may certainly not be THE factor that drives your Facebook fan efforts, it is at least one measure of success you can quantify and track. If responsiveness is of high importance to your efforts, I would encourage you to find a tool that can do just that and allow you to compare yourself to others for more context. My friends at Expion can certainly help. But if you know of another tool that does the same, we’d be happy for you to share a link to it in the comments.

So, are you tracking your response times? How so and with what tools? Is that metric important to your social media efforts? Why or why not?

The comments are yours!

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Jason

    This is a very interesting post indeed…. Would be pretty interesting for a consumer brand to know but I had some thoughts I wanted to share.

    1 – your statistics suggest that these restaurants were either in the same time zone or at least in the same country?

    2 – besides consumer brands would this be of great interest for B2B community monitoring?

    While I love such metric. What can I do if a customer complaints that in restaurant X his burger is taking longer than 5 minutes to show up. Reply and say we are sorry here is a coupon?

    Put differently, how do we make sure that we do not just respond to those that shout the loudest to their friends and others about having to wait or getting a steak overdone instead of rare ???

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Romain Roux

      You could say “Here is a coupon”.

      I used to have my bank account at First Union where they had the following policy : if you waited in line more than 5 minutes, they would credit your account with $5.

      And let me tell you I never waited more than 5 minutes…

      @roxibrown

    • http://www.expion.com EricaMcClenny

      Urs, long time no chat and I'd be happy to give you a bit more insight on Expion. FYI…this is the company I work for and you and I have actually chatted in our early days. I hope Commetrics is doing well in Europe!

      1. Expion does factor in time zones. We can compare same times zones, regional areas or specific countries. We also track users time zones and take that into consideration as well.

      2. B2C or B2B can take response time, percentage of response and percentage of repeat engagement as benchmarking metrics. Reality is that many “fans” only engage once on a large brand page. The goal is to respond to ALL relevant comments and posts and bring that person back for a continued conversation.

      Action packed metrics are important and charts are great but you have to get to the specific conversations in one place. That is our specialty across brand pages, local accounts or any variety of conversation points on social media channels like a Facebook page or Twitter account.

      • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

        Erica

        How zit across the pond. Thanks so much for replying. Your question if we do well I can say, thanks for asking and YES EXCEPT I am looking for software engineering talent to help, its tough to get where I want without enough if those skills in-house… So if you know anybody (telecommuting is no problem) please send them our way.

        Looking at your replies I can see that you have things covered, of course. The comments you make about fans coming back once only (I assume you refer to Facebook, so you monitor Facebook as well?) is a valid one I wholeheartedly agree with.

        I was more trying to point out that there is a danger that we tend to respond faster and more likely to those making the loudest amount of noise…. a valid concern considering that interaction on social media is not scalable.

        I just tried to cope with that situation again in a social media war situation over here, its not always best to forget those that are polite, patient…. important clients as well.

        Erica thanks for explaining your program here. Merci.

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Romain

    Great point but that means you have actionable and smart metrics, whereby waiting for more than 5 minutes means you get $5.

    Needless to say we still need to make sure that you did in fact wait for 5 minutes before you were served or got your burger. But I appreciate this point Romain, thanks

  • http://twitter.com/andreamv Andrea Meyer

    This is a smart metric. Does it also have some correlation between customer posts and corporate posts? That might be another good measurement–to see how much natural conversation there is among customers vs. a push from the brand.

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    Mines is fast because all my social world is connected to my phone..so I'm always at their service.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://My.ComMetrics.com Urs E. Gattiker

    Dear Romain

    Great comment I forgot that one. But to make this work you need to have actionable and smart metrics like if it takes more than 5 minutes, you get $5 … great example. Thanks

  • http://twitter.com/MarketMeSuite MarketMeSuite

    Hi Jason, Very good article. Real time replying (or as close to it as possible) is so important, for large companies as well as Small Businesses. In fact, probably even more-so for the SME who, proportionately has more to gain from a single customer being satisfied. Thanks for this great post!

  • http://prevolutionblog.com Kasey Skala

    I don't think response time plays a roll – other than the initial acknowledgement of said issue. I think consumers — at least for my brand — would rather have the right anwser in 5 hours, as opposed to a generic answer is 5 minutes.

    That being said, I think there is something there…although I just wouldn't put a lot of stock in it.

    • http://www.expion.com EricaMcClenny

      Kasey, I think you hit on something really important. A generic canned response is ineffective in any amount of time. However, the faster the relevant response the more likely the fan/potential customer is to respond back. Good stuff!

    • http://twitter.com/JGoldsborough JGoldsborough

      Probably also depends on the type of brands and industry, right? Response time is absolutely important for the fast food industry. May not be as critical for B2B brands or healthcare. But most B2C companies have a more public, urgent customer service need and response time can absolutely effect perception. That said, canned responses with no solution are worthless. But do you think a “Hey, we're looking into this” post soon after the initial comment is a smart approach?

      Do think there is some correlation between engagement and response time. People post something and we pay attention for a little while, but then our short attention span kicks in and we're on to the next thing unless we get a response.

  • http://realessay.com/ essay help

    Thanks for useful info.

  • http://www.in10sity.net Andrew Schiller

    Fast response is important, I believe. So is pausing to put things in context in order to give the best service. I'm thinking of that United Airlines flap from a couple of weeks ago. Angry customer tweeting sarcastic comments, a quick answer from the social media team without pausing to check the context, and…a narrow escape.
    http://www.prdaily.com/Main/Ar

    Quick, ineffective service is nearly worse than no service at all in some instances.

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  • Ozio Media

    No matter which social media tracking tools are used to track response times, it’s very important to respond to both negative and positive comments in a timely manner. How you respond is just as important as when you respond. Responding to a comment verifies to your fans that you are listening and they are being heard. When responding to a negative comment always keep it professional and offer a solution.

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  • http://www.freshdesk.com Sreelesh

    Good study! Wish you’d do another study over the same companies covered here, to find out how each handles customer requests over Facebook. A separate “customer support agent for Facebook”? Or the fan-page marketing personnel seeing the request to closure?

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  • http://www.fudoweb.com/ Sneha Agarwal

    Nice information you have provided for me its very important to me thanks alot

  • Dallas Thompson

    Jason,  great data.. Are you familiar with Harvard’s recent take on this topic? They tend to agree with you.  Would love to have a side conversation regarding repsonse in the TELCO space. Where churn and loyalty are likely impacted by speed of response… ANy chance you can run data on these guys?
    Harvard —  

    http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/12/turn_customer_care_into_social.html?utm_campaign=Socialflow&utm_source=Socialflow&utm_medium=Tweet
    ping me @dallasfromatx:twitter 

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