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Is Your Social Media Customer Service Helping or Hurting Your Customer Experience?

We're almost to the mid-point of 2018, and it still amazes me that many brands either have no social customer service or ineffective social customer service. For the record, contacting brands on social media only to be passed off to someone else is not social customer service.

We reach out to a brand on social media when we have a customer issue for a couple of reasons. First, we expect a more timely response. Second, we expect a more timely resolution.

social media

Brands that don't have an effective social customer service function are leaving a lot of money on the table.

Let's look at the facts.

Last month there were more than 4 billion Internet users and 3.3 billion were social media users.

As of January 2018, Facebook had over 2 billion users, spending 950 million minutes on the network every month. Twitter had 330 million users, posting more than 500 million tweets every day.

In 2017, 81% of the US population had at least one social network. According to the eCommerce Foundation's recently released "United States E-commerce Country Report," 88% of consumers are using the Internet to research products and services before making a purchase either online or in-store.

That's quite a lot of customers, and would-be customers brands just aren't engaging with. And that translates to wasted opportunity and money.

Brands must have the capability to handle customer issues through their social channels.

According to a recent J.D. Power survey, 67% of consumers have used social media to resolve their customer service issues. Also, over one-third of customers prefer to contact brands via social media over the telephone, email or website/live chat.

Customer inquiries on social are increasing. Twitter found, in recent research, that customer service conversations had increased by 2.5x in the past two years.

Since it is social media, customers expect a fast response. Fast responses are an essential part of meeting customer expectations for social care.

According to Sprout Social's research, above all other behaviors, consumers expect brands to be responsive.

Sprout Social Research 

Consumers have high expectations when it comes to response times.

Eptica polled 1,000 consumers on how long they were willing to wait when they connected with various channels.

  • 77% of consumers won't wait more than six hours for an email response.
  • 85% of consumers using Facebook expect an answer within six hours.
  • 64% of consumers using Twitter expect a response within an hour.

Jeff Toister recently surveyed more than 1,200 consumers to learn precisely how fast they expect businesses to respond to emails and social media messages. According to the results, 44% of respondents expect an email response within four hours, 50% of respondents expect a Twitter response within an hour, and 60% of respondents expect a Facebook response within four hours.

As time goes on, customers expect more from brands.

Brands are missing the boat and not taking advantage of a golden opportunity to enhance the customer experience.

A recent study that Five9 and ICMI conducted revealed that while more than 68% of businesses recognize social media as a necessary service channel, 60% of companies are not formally supporting social customer care.

Also, Sprout Social found almost 89% of messages that require a response are ignored by brands, with an average wait of 10 hours for those that do get a reply.

Twitter said that companies were handling only 60% of customer inquiries. Yet, almost two-thirds of customers expect brands to offer social customer service.

As a result, this hits brands where it hurts the most, in the purse.

According to Conversocial, 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from companies who leave complaints unattended.

Gartner found that failure to respond via social channels can lead to a 15% increase in churn rate for existing customers.

Not taking care of customers is costing brands millions. A recent report by New Voice Media says companies are losing $62 billion per year through poor customer service.

Providing social customer service lowers costs and increases revenues.

In Conversocial's State of Social Customer Service Report, it stated that according to Gartner, it costs less than $1 per interaction on social, compared to $6 per phone call and $2.50-5 per email.

When customers receive favorable service, advocacy increases. According to Convince & Convert, resolving an issue can increase advocacy by as much as 25% (while not responding to a question can decrease advocacy by as much as 50%).

Bain notes that when companies engage and respond to customers over social, those customers spend 20-40% more with them. McKinsey reports that companies that developed social care capabilities improved year-over-year revenue per contract by 6.7% through effective up-selling, cross-selling and customer churn reduction versus a 12.1% decline for those without that capability.

In its 2018 research, Aberdeen noted that "55% of companies currently use social media as part of their CX channel mix. Data also shows that 14% more organizations plan to incorporate social media in 2018 and beyond. This brings the anticipated adoption rate to 69%".

As this chart shows, it makes sense to provide social customer service.

Aberdeen Social Media CX 

And, best-in-class firms see even better performance than others.

Also, best-in-class firms see 53% year-over-year growth in customer satisfaction rates (versus -5.5% for all others). And, best-in-class firms achieve 51% year-over-year growth in first contact resolution rates (versus 5.7% for all others).

Social Customer Service is a big deal. In fact, social customer service serves as an inflection point - it can determine whether a customer continues to do business or stops doing business with you!

Social Customer Service is that critical that Gartner believes that by 2020, 90% of customer service will occur through social media.

What can companies do to include social customer service in their processes?

Show up and be active on social media.

If a brand is going to be on social media, it needs to be visible on social media. The brand needs to be active, constantly and consistently.

Social media is not just about promotion. In fact, listening, engaging with customers and would-be-customers and helping to answer questions, solve issues, etc. are more important than simply broadcasting or promoting on social media.

Social media is not just about promotion. In fact, listening, engaging with customers and would-be-customers and helping to answer questions, solve issues, etc. are more important than simply broadcasting or promoting on social media.

Make Social Customer Service a Valuable Piece of the Omni-Channel Customer Experience.

Aberdeen has previously noted that "companies that get omnichannel right achieve the ultimate balance. They improve the customer experience while driving operational excellence, which translates into reduced costs."

But, as Aberdeen notes in its 2018 research, a common mistake that many brands make with a social customer service program is to manage it as a siloed initiative. As a result, customers get frustrated and post negative comments about their experiences.

This is not good when 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience wherever they engage be it web, social media web or in person.

When social media is integrated with other channels, so data and insights are shared across the organization, brands can use these insights to tailor each interaction to improve the customer's overall experience. Adding social media data into the mix only makes customer journeys richer. Building a comprehensive view into journeys helps brands understand, predict and address customer expectations.

Therefore, to have a truly omnichannel customer experience, it is vital that social customer service be a valuable component.

Implement Best Practices To Make Social Customer Service Stick.

Respond immediately.

The reality is social media implies immediacy, and customers expect brands to respond immediately. In fact, Facebook Pages show a company's response times to resolve issues.

Brands need to respond in minutes. Social customer service isn't only about solving problems; it's also an opportunity to connect authentically, engage, and leave a lasting positive impression that will drive loyalty.

In fact, 71% of customers who have a positive social media service experience are likely to recommend that brand.

Be consistent.

Consistency is one of the most important things to providing a great experience. It builds trust. It illustrates what customers can come to expect from a brand. Consistency also drives retention, loyalty, and advocacy, and helps you acquire new customers in the process.

Personalize the experience.

According to Accenture, 81% of consumers want brands to understand them better. Being authentic and showing empathy creates experiences that drive loyalty. You'll be able to connect and engage on a deeper, more personal level and customers will leave feeling happy.

Be proactive.

Social customer service isn't only about resolving issues timely and effectively. It's also about anticipating needs and acting accordingly. And that means regularly monitoring customer activities on social media to determine when it's appropriate to engage with a customer or alert other employees to get involved.

It also provides an excellent opportunity to obtain customer feedback, encourages customers to share their experiences with their social networks or offer additional tools to help customers be more successful. Brands should always be on the lookout for opportunities to drive customer value.

Share insights with other organizational teams.

The information you obtain from engaging with customers is vital to be able to improve the customer experience. Thus, you should share insights with other stakeholders so these insights can be acted on and improvements to existing processes can be made to enhance customers' experiences.

Measure and monitor.

Measure the social customer service you're providing through such metrics as CSAT, CES, NPS, and others. Be methodical. Know the KPI's you need to achieve your desired outcomes. It's important not only to measure but also to monitor and analyze trends so you can make improvements to enhance a customer's experience.

Bringing it all Together

Providing an excellent customer experience is a must. Including social customer service in the mix will help brands create experiences customers expect. Social Customer Service will help brands shape conversations by engaging customers before and after purchase to drive customer lifetime value.