Editor's note: Marianne Hynd is vice president of operations at Ann Michaels and Associates, a Naperville, Ill., customer experience management firm.

Consumers have been driving social media as a customer service channel for many years, with high expectations as far as response rate and time, which has left brands feeling the pressure to acclimate to this new normal. While this has been generally successful, will consumers continue to dictate the rules of engagement or will brands get to a point where they take control again? This article draws from a study that sought to uncover insights into the current state of affairs and give some clues to what comes next.

Ann Michaels & Associates initiated the study focused on customer service in social media in 2012 as the phenomenon started to emerge. The study was replicated in 2015 and vast improvements were noted. It was clear that brands realized that the consumer was driving this need and it was only going to become more significant and they responded in a positive manner. By 2017, great strides had been made but just how far had brands advanced in their handling of customer feedback submitted via social media?

The 2017 study sought to answer this question. In addition to evaluating response rates and response times across social channel and time of day, the study also looked to identify any potential gaps in social service and uncover any potential opportunities to further enhance the customer experience online.

Ten companies within three verticals within the retail industry – specialty retail apparel, department stores and drug/grocery stores – were selected for inclusion in the study. The three industries were chosen as they represent a nice subset of the retail industry as a whole and obtaining data from different verticals within the same industry would provide a solid overview of performance.

The study focused on two of the largest so...