The immediate nature of Twitter means that it is both a blessing and a curse for brands, as it gives them an excellent opportunity for having conversations with users but also puts pressure on them to respond quickly to customer complaints.

To give themselves some breathing space and ensure that marketing messages don’t get drowned out by consumer queries, many brands operate separate Twitter feeds for marketing and customer service.

In a recent series of posts looking at how major brands use social I noted that Tesco and ASOS have dedicated Twitter feeds for customer service, and we’ve also investigated whether Twitter is creating a VIP customer service channel.

And new research from Simply Measured shows that 30 of the Interbrand Top 100 Brands currently operate a dedicated customer service Twitter feed, a number that has increased from 23 since December 2012.

This indicates that more brands believe there is value in allowing marketing and customer service to be master of their own domains.

The presence of a dedicated customer service handle allows the flexibility of responding to complaints, questions, and issues without compromising their brand voice.

How many tweets actually get responses?

One of the questions facing brands is how much resource they should invest in Twitter compared to other customer service channels.

The sheer amount of activity on Twitter means that it would be impossible for a brand to achieve a 100% response rate, and in reality not all @mentions warrant a reply.

The average response rate to all customer service mentions was 42%, while Ford achieved the best response rate at 75%. Only five of the dedicated support accounts maintained response rates greater than 60%.

It’s also interesting to note the speed in which brands respond to customers. 

The average response time for a customer support mentions over the last three months was 5.1 hours. On Twitter, 5.1 hours is a very long time; however the fastest average response time was Microsoft at just 42 minutes, which is highly commendable.

How well are the top brands responding?

Each of the top 10 brands by mentions averaged response times less than 24 hours. Microsoft, American Express and UPS were fastest brands to respond to customers, replying to mentions in under two hours.

The top 10 dedicated handles account for a massive 59% of total customer mentions, and demand has actually increased by 20% since December 1. These accounts responded by increasing the number of tweets they sent by 39%.

The increase includes tweets to all followers as well as responses to customer tweets, which indicates that these brands are continuing to invest more resources in social marketing.

The customer service demand for these accounts means that they have a large responsibility to customers, but also an opportunity to exceed expectations and benefit the brand.