Customer complaints, hashtag trolls, weird fanboys. It’s hard not to pity the social media manager running a brand Twitter account. There is, however, a way to gauge how companies are doing on the platform relative to their competitors.

Using social media analytics firm Unmetric‘s proprietary data, we pitted five fast-food brands against each other — McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, Chipotle and Subway — to see which scored highest on customer service responsiveness.

“People like being directly connected with brands, and so it makes sense to them to try and redress their grievances using Twitter,” Jeanette Gibson, vp of customer experience and community at social media management firm Hootsuite, told Digiday. “But it’s also helpful for brands, as it gives them insights into how people perceive them and an opportunity to show the customers that they are listening.”

According to another social media analytics firm, Socialbakers, so-called “quick service restaurant” brands on average responded to 60 percent of customers’ Facebook questions in the last quarter of 2014. But the challenge lies beyond issuing a simple @-reply: the onus is on brands to not only respond, but respond quickly and innovatively to the invective so often hurled at them on Twitter on a daily basis.

Between Jan. 1 and March 17 this year, the five brands were tracked on the sentiment of the tweets to their official accounts, their apologies, their average response times and their average response rates to those tweets. The overall winner was Chipotle, for tweeting speedy, engaging fare.

Overview

“The question is not whether they should respond, but how, because the comments are coming whether brands like it or not,” Matt Herrmann, Pereira O’Dell’s chief strategy officer, told Digiday. “If the brand can respond in a way that feels personal or at least has some personality, it can turn a potentially negative situation into a potentially positive one.”

A closer look at the brands’ performances:

Volume of negative tweets 

Sentiment

 

Not all customer tweets to the brands were complaints. Burger King had the highest number of positive tweets addressed to them — but also had the fewest customer service tweets sent to them overall at just 211. Chipotle, on the other hand, had the most negative tweets addressed to it, but also a greater volume of overall tweets mentioning it.

Content of the replies

Reply type not including plain text replies

Some of the brand replies were boilerplate requests asking the customer to call or email with more details. But by far, the most common type of reply to a customer on Twitter was an apology. And the most apologetic of the fast-food brands was Wendy’s, which said sorry in 831 out of its 2,406 replies

Chipotle issued 2,964 apologies out of 22,402 replies; Burger King delivered just two apologies out of 193 replies. Ten out the 16,747 McDonald’s replies were apologies, while Subway issued no direct apologies out of its 661 replies on Twitter — perhaps because it had only five tweets with negative sentiment among the 688 tweets it received.

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While Wendy’s may be the most apologetic of the fast-food chains, it provided the least amount of information to help its followers out. On the flip side, Chipotle is not only quick to apologize, but it also provides customers with links or instructions to help resolve the issue.

Average response time

ART

Chipotle is quickest when it comes to responding to its fans, with more than 70 percent of all replies (15,826 out of 22,311) coming within 15 minutes or less. Its average response time was 21 minutes, 10 seconds.

Subway, on the other hand, is neither fresh nor fast, with an average reply time of more than 28 hours. Wendy’s comes in second to Chipotle, taking an average of 1 hour and 19 minutes; Burger King comes third with 3 hours and 53 minutes and McDonald’s takes the second-to-last spot with 7 hours and 43 minutes.

Response rate

Response Rate and ART

Chipotle leads the pack in this category as well, replying to 22,311 of 114,087 mentions of its brand, or 20 percent. Burger King replied to a mere 0.3 percent of tweets addressed to it.

McDonald’s, Wendy’s and Subway were in the middle ranks, responding to 7.4 percent, 5 percent and 1 percent tweets addressed to them, respectively.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock. Charts courtesy of Unmetric

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