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Holiday Shoppers Turn to Twitter to Pan and Praise Shipping Carriers

Some online shoppers failed to receive their orders in time for Christmas, with UPS issuing a warning on Christmas Eve that the volume of air packages in its system exceeded the capacity of its network, “as demand was much greater than the forecast, resulting in some shipments being delayed.” But as the Wall Street Journal pointed out on Christmas Day, UPS was not alone, citing the unexpected surge of online orders, bad weather, glitches and late deliveries from manufacturers.

UPS, FedEx and USPS use Twitter to respond to customer comments and complaints – but just how well do they engage with their social audience? A company called Engagor set out to study the shipping carriers to find out, and also learned the most common complaint during one of the busiest days of the holiday shopping season for online merchants.

On December 16, one of the busiest shipping day of the year thanks to online holiday shoppers, Engagor monitored Twitter activity around UPS, FedEx and USPS to see how well (and how quickly) the companies engaged with their social audience, the biggest complaints and what drove positive/negative sentiment.

When it came to social engagement between the companies, there was no question about who had a team in place to respond to social comments and complaints: UPS responded 2.5 times more than its competitors. However, on average, FedEx was slightly quicker in responding.

The most common complaint for all three companies? No surprise – slow delivery, according to Engagor, which calls itself a “real-time customer engagement platform.” But it wasn’t just complaints – people took to Twitter to praise, as well. What positive tweets did each carrier experience the most? For UPS, it was gratitude from customers for helping with questions/quick delivery. For USPS, it was shipping tips. And for FedEx, it was gratitude from customers for helping with questions/quality service.

Number of times UPS, USPS and FedEx responded to consumers on Monday (12/16/13):
UPS: 469 (44% of posts)
USPS: 182 (14% of posts)
FedEx: 158 (16% of posts)

Average response times:
FedEx: 55 minutes
UPS: 1 hour and 1 minute
USPS: 1 hour and 7 minutes

Number of overall FedEx, UPS and USPS mentions:
UPS: 3,828
USPS: 1,476
FedEx: 1,167

US states/cities with the most activity on the company’s Twitter handle:
UPS: Texas, 214 posts
USPS: Washington, D.C., 208 posts
FedEx: Tennessee, 204 posts

In a recent blog post, Engagor also offered advice for companies on how to measure social media performance when it comes to customer service. First, it noted that companies should reply to every message. “Quantity wins over quality in this situation, because customers show no mercy for unanswered messages.”

Key performance indicators include Volume of incoming messages; Time to resolution; Time to answer; and Number of responded posts. “To optimize your social media workflow, introducing a social media customer service team helps a company to direct every issue to the right department,” Engagor said. “This helps the customer at every touch point.”

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Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). She is a member of the Online News Association (Sep 2005 - present) and Investigative Reporters and Editors (Mar 2006 - present). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com. See disclosure at EcommerceBytes.com/disclosure/.