Social media is often praised for its real-time response, which is why many consumers turn to it for customer service issues. However, if this study is any indication, customers might be better off phoning it in.

STELLAService — which ranks the performance of online businesses — analyzed the top 25 online retailers to see how effective their customer service was on Twitter. Tweets were examined over a 45-day period to determine how many responses went out and how long it took.

The company found that only 44 percent of customers’ questions were answered within 24 hours . It’s unclear if the remaining 56 percent were ignored, or if those responses fell outside of the 24-hour window.

Although the study didn’t paint many brands in a positive light, two companies did stand out: Zappos.com and LLBean.com. Both companies responded to all customer service tweets within 24 hours. In fact, Zappos went above and beyond by answering 82 percent of tweets within one hour of receiving them.

The other retailers rounding out the top five include Overstock.com and Dell.com with a 98 percent response rate, and BestBuy.com with 89 percent.

“It’s becoming clear that social media savvy consumers are an incredibly important segment of any company’s customer base, both because they have higher service expectations and they have wide broadcast networks for sharing their experience with others,” stated Jordy Leiser, STELLAService’s CEO. “By failing to take Twitter seriously as a customer service channel, companies may be inadvertently ignoring some of their best customers at their own peril”

While it’s still unclear what happened with the other 56 percent of queries, this study serves as a good reminder of how important it is to be responsive through social media. Your action, or lack of, is visible to more than just your internal team now. If you’re present, people expect that someone is listening.

[Via: AllTwitter, Image credit: Bernard Goldbach]