What does it mean to have exceptional customer service? Automated phone systems? Website chatbots? Help guides? These ease your customer support teams’ workload, but they don’t always cater to the needs of your customers—especially if they have a unique or urgent issue. When this happens, they don’t want to click through a series of irrelevant options or read through useless FAQs.
They want to speak to a human as soon as possible, and guess where they go to achieve this? Social media.
The number of US social media users is expected to surpass 308 million in 2023 (up over 6 million from 2022 projections). So brands—now’s the time to build a social customer care strategy (if you don’t already have one).
Not sure where to start?
How do customers use social media for support?
Brands have several options for delivering customer support, but the one that appeals most to consumers is social media. From 2020 to 2021 alone, the volume of consumers who preferred using social messaging for customer service jumped an impressive 110%.
As customers continue to flock to social for their support needs, it will take more effort to maintain speedy social media response times. Be careful—if you fail to offer timely resolutions on social, almost half of consumers may unfollow your brand. Even worse, over a third will talk about the experience with their family and friends.
So how are customers using social channels to receive support from brands?
“About 70% of my customers reached out to me through social media channels, the other 30% by email,” says Zoila Streich, Co-Founder of Independent Fashion Bloggers and former fashion business owner. “Most questions are about product availability and payment methods, but a few are feedback about the products or the buying process.”
You’ll also find customers using it to report service outages:
Good afternoon lethal Energy,
Thank you for contacting Mediacom with your concerns. We’re sorry for any interruption of services that your power company caused and we are happy to help where we may. Can you DM us if you are experiencing any other issues currently? ^JJ https://t.co/oiNdqufxNq
— Mediacom Cable (@MediacomCable) December 21, 2020
Or to point out issues with shipments and deliveries:
@ReserveBar I have a problem with a recent order. I emailed Customer Help and waited, but no response. I then opened a ticket. Still no response. I know the holidays are busy. Still, I would like to have my issue resolved. Can you help?
— jcbphd (@jcbphd) December 15, 2021
It’s disheartening to get negative feedback, but being respectful and helpful to each customer’s request will help in the long run.
Combining a great product or service with excellent support sets you up for more positive remarks from customers:
Thank you for taking time out of your schedule to share your satisfaction and appreciation with us, kindness such as yours really does make a difference to our employees! Kind Regards,
Tammi | Pottery Barn Social Media Team
— Pottery Barn (@potterybarn) December 17, 2021
Make sure to prepare for the ebbs and flows of incoming customer support requests. New product launches or promotions lead to an influx of sales, which means more opportunities for inbound questions, so have your social media presence properly staffed.
“The volume of customers using our social media customer support fluctuates between 40% to 60%, depending on promotions,” says Yuvi Alpert, Founder, Creative Director and CEO of jewelry brand Noémie. “Because we drive people to our social media profiles through other channels, such as our newsletter, many of the questions we receive come through those platforms.”
How important is social media customer service to consumers?
Social media has flipped the balance of power between brands and consumers. Only on social can people compare a brand’s support practices to its competitors in less than a few clicks. If a business providing similar products or services is offering better help, Sprout Social’s Index™ found that 30% of consumers say they’d choose the competitor.
The public nature of social media support has influenced many brands to rethink their roster of standard support channels. More than half say that private/direct messaging plays a role in their customer care strategy.
With social media customer service stats like these, there’s only one thing to do: improve your social media A-game, so you don’t fall into the trenches of negative reviews.
Being consistent with your customer support builds trust and loyalty. Some will even go out of their way to show their praises in public (hello, social proof).
@culvers too many times we hear nothing but negative, but I wanted to give a shout out to the Culver’s in Richland Center. The fries were perfect! Temperature, look everything! And that burger…I’m in heaven! Friendly people made my day! Good job RC Culver’s!
— Tara Lynn (@Gigglegirls3) December 22, 2021
Having stellar customer support is essential to both customers and brands. But manually responding to every message—especially when you have multiple social media accounts and thousands of customers—is not sustainable.
With a tool like Sprout Social, customer care teams can organize and filter incoming messages across platforms, triage responses and view critical customer information all in one place.
Solo Stove chose Sprout after struggling with backlogs of customer DMs and mentions. Using Sprout’s Smart Inbox and Automated Rules, they can quickly see customer support messages based on keywords like “order status” and “shipping.”
This visibility has not only made Solo Stove’s customer care team more efficient, it also correlated with a bump in positive brand sentiment.
How quickly do brands need to reply to customer service messages on social?
Being present on social media is great. But having a fast response rate sets apart the “best in class” brands from the “I’m unfollowing you because your customer service is horrible” brands.
How fast is fast enough? In many cases, it depends on the industry and the situation.
For instance, Yuvi Alpert finds a day is fast enough during promotions. “It is critical that we answer those questions within 24 hours. We found that allowing more time to elapse lowers customer interest. By offering prompt responses, we see dramatic increases in sales of featured items.”
But what do customers say the proper response time is for social media customer support?
Our latest Sprout Social Index™ data found that 76% of consumers expect a reply within 24 hours on social.
At one time, taking a day or more to respond to a customer was acceptable. But now most demand instant access and gratification. And if you’re considered a high-priced product or service, then you definitely must respond quickly. One report shows customers who pay more for a service expect a higher level of social customer care.
When MeUndies set a goal of replying to all messages within a 60-minute window, they needed an alternative to responding natively through social platforms. They turned to Sprout’s Smart Inbox to get an all-encompassing view of their Instagram direct messages, mentions and comments in one stream.
Now, be mindful that a fast response isn’t the primary goal—it’s to resolve customers’ issues. Unfortunately, some brands are quick to reply but slow to resolve. And when that happens, unhappy customers will let you (and all their followers) know:
Delta is replying, but the issue is lingering too long. Address customer problems fast or risk losing current and potential customers.
Facebook customer service stats
Facebook is the number one platform where consumers follow brands, so it’s easy to reach out whenever needed. Around 69% of Facebook Messenger users say communicating with brands here builds confidence in the company.
If your customers are on Facebook, then you should be too.
OLIPOP, a tonic brand, uses Facebook to offer direct customer support. “I’d estimate at least 50% of our customers will message us questions or comment directly on our posts across Facebook and Instagram,” says Melanie Bedwell, eCommerce Manager for OLIPOP. “Ideally, we try to reply instantly, but if that’s not possible, then at least during the same day.”
Here are examples of their engagement with happy customers:
They also use opportunities to promote their in-store options (and their tool to locate one near you).
Twitter customer service stats
Twitter is where you’ll find most people headed to compliment or complain about a brand. About 64% of Twitter users even say they’d rather Tweet a brand than call them.
We partnered with Twitter to learn more about how consumers are connecting with brands on the network and found that:
- 53% of Twitter users find it helpful to see how brands answer questions or solve issues publicly.
- 51% of surveyed Twitter users report their experiences communicating with brands on Twitter makes them feel more favorable toward the brand.
- 1 in 3 (34%) Twitter users purchased a product or service after a positive customer interaction on Twitter.
Why do people reach out to brands on Twitter? All sorts of reasons, but the most popular reasons to seek out customer service on the network are product defectiveness (37%), order issues (29%) and bad in-person experiences (29%).
While it’s great to have this two-way communication with customers, a customer service-filled feed can distract from other campaigns and promotions your brand is trying to highlight. This is why some brands stand up separate Twitter accounts dedicated to customer care.
“Businesses use social media for a variety of purposes, including marketing, engaging with customers, interacting with influencers and more,” says Keenan Beavis, founder of Longhouse Media. “That’s why having a distinct social media account dedicated to customer support inquiries is so important. You don’t want your advertising, likes and shares to bury client demands and questions. ”
We see companies like Belkin using this approach. The consumer electronics brand notifies users to ask questions using its dedicated Twitter customer service channel.
If you visit Belkin on Twitter, you’ll see they go over and beyond for their customers. They even offer multi-lingual support.
Sentimos mucho escuchar de su experiencia y quisiéramos conocer más detalles. Favor síganos aqui en Twitter y envíenos más detalles en un mensaje privado para poder atender su caso adecuadamente. Con todo gusto le atenderemos. https://t.co/h2jYyfYdnu
— BelkinCares (@BelkinCares) June 28, 2021
Improve customer experiences with social media customer service
You created your business profiles on the social channels your customers frequent. But don’t just use them to promote your products and services. It’s a channel where today’s consumers expect customer support.
Be ready to engage with both customers and prospects by creating separate handles and using Sprout’s social customer service tools to manage it all in one place. Timely alerts + quick responses = happy customers. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Ready to build relationships with your customers? Sign up for Sprout’s free trial to get started.