The Q3 2017 Sprout Social Index

When it comes to call-out culture, not all brands are equally affected by this trend. Which industries are more prone to customer call-outs and which are perceived to be the worst in responding? The three industries people say they’re most likely to complain about are consumer goods (19%), retail (17%) and government (15%). Logical, given that these three industries have some of the biggest impact on consumers’ day-to-day, from the clothes they wear to the decisions of their representatives.

While consumers also rank CPG, retail and government as the industries in greatest need of help when it comes to customer service, the percentages are comparatively lower: Almost 15% of consumers rank consumer goods (CPG) the industry in greatest need of help when it comes to social customer service, with retail in close second with 13% and government around 12%.

More dramatic disparities show up in banking/finance, which less than 5% of people rank as having the highest potential for complaints, yet almost 10% of people believe could use customer service help.

But how do beliefs about industry social engagement compare to actual performance data?

While people say they’re most likely to complain about consumer goods, our data found that people are actually most vocal with government and healthcare organizations on social. Unfortunately for those people, these industries both rank on the lower end of brand responsiveness.

When it comes to retail, expectations and reality seem even further apart. Retail ranks second for industries consumers believe need the most help with social customer service. But in reality, the retail industry’s response rate is actually the highest of all industries at 19%—or 64% higher than the all-industry average response rate of 11%.

So how does each industry stack up in terms of social responsiveness? The list below ranks 15 key industries, their rates of inbound messages requiring a response and their actual performance in terms of social responsiveness. As a refresher, here’s what each metric means:

  • Response Rate: the percent of consumer messages needing a response that actually get one
  • Response Time: how long brands take (in hours) to respond to the consumer messages that need a response
  • % Needs Response: how many messages brands receive on social that require a response (based on Sprout’s algorithm, which analyzes identifiers such as question marks, @mentions and keywords)
  • Posts per Replies: how many promotional messages brands publish compared to how many responses they give to their audience
  • Brand Engagement Ranking: how responsive brands are to consumers
  • Consumer Engagement Ranking: how vocal consumers are with brands

Overall, our data shows that today, brands receive 146% more social messages needing response than they did three years ago. But in the same time frame, their response rate has decreased—on average, they respond to only 1 in 10.

Whether a consumer reaches out with an innocent question or a vicious call-out, brands have to be listening to ensure they have the chance to deliver a meaningful, timely response—before an issue goes viral. While call-outs can serve as vehicles for airing customer anger and frustration, they’re also an attempt to keep brands and businesses honest and accountable. The best way for brands to honor that intent—and avert a potential crisis—is to respond by owning responsibility and providing transparency from the outset. When it comes to call-out culture, an ounce of proactive social customer service is worth a pound of public relations cure.

About the Data

The Sprout Social Index is a report compiled and released by Sprout Social. All referenced data is based on 289,000 public social profiles (139,000 Facebook; 115,000 Twitter; 35,000 Instagram) of continually active accounts between Q2 2016 and Q2 2017. More than 3.9 billion messages sent and received during that time were analyzed for the purposes of this report.

Some data may have shifted from the last Sprout Social Index report due to a shift in the social profiles analyzed; however, all overarching trends remain consistent. Industry classifications were based on LinkedIn industry categories. In some cases, closely related industries were merged into a single overarching industry. All messages analyzed that were considered casual mentions or not in need of a response were excluded from engagement, response rate and response time calculations with the intention of eliminating noise. Analysis of which messages required attention was done using Sprout’s proprietary technologies. Response time and response rate calculations were done using Sprout’s Engagement Reporting technology found in the Sprout Social product.

The consumer survey was conducted by Survata, an independent research firm in San Francisco. Survata interviewed 1,003 online respondents between July 10, 2017 and July 14, 2017. More information on Survata’s methodology can be found at

For questions about the Index data, please contact


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *