Yesterday it was announced that Sainsbury’s is the most socially influential retail brand on Twitter based on its Klout score.

If you’re not aware of what a Klout score is, it’s an online social popularity measurement that leaves the more egotistically fragile of us weeping alone in a stationery cupboard. It also has its detractors

To contradict Sainsbury’s achievement, over the past six months, supermarket rival Tesco has fought its way to the top of Leaderboarded’s UK Twitter Social Customer Care table, overtaking previous top-spot holders Virgin Media and… yes… Sainsbury’s. 

It should be noted that the Social Customer Care table takes into account not just a company’s Klout score but also its responsiveness to direct or indirect mentions and whether it has a dedicated social customer service team or not.

So which one of these giants of retail really is the best at customer care and influence? It looks like we’re just going to have to head out to the car park after store close and settle this the ‘old fashioned’ way.

Response time

I covered both supermarkets in my recent social customer service test. In terms of speed, there was little between them. Tesco replied in 49 minutes…

… however Sainsbury’s was seven minutes quicker replying in 42 minutes.

Neither brand is setting the world on fire with its response time, especially with such an easily answerable tweet (“what time is my [local] branch open till today?”) so really I’d expect something within 15 minutes. Still, within one hour is better than nearly half the retailers I tested.

When looking through yesterday’s tweets (25/11/14) response times from Tesco range anywhere between a few minutes to 16 hours. 

Obviously this delay is due to Tesco not running a 24 hour customer service operation. The problem with not doing this means a backlog has built up and Tesco is still fighting fires in the afternoon from the night before.

Tesco does apologise regularly for the delay though…

Today Sainsbury’s seems to be in a similar backlog situation but its responses are even more delayed.

It’s 4:33pm and the Sainsbury’s team is still dealing with requests from yesterday early evening. At roughly the same point Tesco has managed to catch up and is responding in around 15 minutes.

Personalisation

Both supermarkets have personalisation nailed. Neither resorts to automated replies and both include the customer’s name and encourage their teams to sign off with their own names.

This makes people feel more comfortable, adding a much needed human touch. It also means that customers have a recorded point of contact if they need to follow something up later. Personalisation may also dissuade customers from lashing out what they assume is a faceless customer service agent.

Helpfulness

I can’t really fault either brand here either. Tesco and Sainsbury’s try to complete each on Twitter, without the need to fob off a difficult enquiry to a different or ‘correct’ channel. Tesco for instance does its best to deal with Tesco Banking enquiries as well as retail based ones.

Both retailers ask a customer to follow them in order to send Direct Messages via Twitter if more sensitive information is needed. There is rarely any instance of either brand saying “call the phone number” for further assistance.

Here Tesco has sent a disappointed customer a refund without any proof of purchase beyond a photo of a damaged potato. 

Sainsbury’s offers a similar level of trust in its customers.

Operation hours

Disappointingly neither operates a 24 hour service, as evidenced in the backlog both retailers have to deal with every day. 24/7 customer care is perhaps easier for global brands with social teams in multiple territories able to pick up the baton when another team goes offline. 

Importantly both sets of social teams do explicitly state that they’re ‘here to help’ in their Twitter descriptions…

However neither brand includes its hours of operation. This can mean the difference between a confrontation with a patient customer who knew roughly when to expect a reply or a wound up customer who’s been sat fulminating.

At the very least Sainsbury’s does specifically say when it’s finished for the day and what time it’s back the next morning.

In conclusion…

This was possibly not the bare-knuckle illegal street brawl I expected it to be. For one thing, 24 hour store opening hours have meant that car parks just aren’t as quiet and non-surveillanced as they used to be.

Each has the basics down (offering Twitter customer care for a start, with relevance and personalisation) but both could improve their response times and be clearer about operating hours. 

If I must pick a winner, it’s Tesco by a small degree. It managed to catch up with its enquiries during the course of the day, which is probably one of the most important factors. 

However both retailers are doing a much better job than many other customer facing brands. As social customer care increases in importance, others will have to adapt to this more agile, sociable world that Tesco and Sainsbury’s comfortably operates in.