Social Media Customer Support is the New Marketing


Customers increasingly reach out on social media for customer support.

One in every three people prefer social channels over phone calls, messaging, and emails. And it’s not just a preference—it’s an expectation. After surveying thousands of brands across fifteen industries, SproutSocial found that  63% customers expect companies to offer social media customer support. And they’re only willing to wait about four hours for a response.   

This shift in customer support is crucial. Let’s explain why.

A marketing double-edged sword

A well known marketing strategy is good customer support. Generally, if a company successfully responds to customers, it’s a win for everyone. A successful interaction with customer support makes people more likely to use a brand’s product or service, and it can increase brand loyalty.

But the stakes are higher on social media. Not only do you improve your standing with the customer, but you can also benefit from the publicity. 

“Jay Baer . . . said it best when he declared that social media makes customer service a spectator sport. When a customer posts a comment, good or bad, the world can see it. They can also see how the company responds—if the company responds at all.”

Shep Hyken, Forbes

We’re all watching how you respond. And we’re judging you. This is why social media customer support is a double edged sword. If you succeed on social, customers are are already on social anyways, so it’s timely and easy to give positive feedback to both you of your followers. In fact, people being helped on social media are 75% more likely to share a good experience on their own profile.

But if you fail, it can be catastrophic to your brand’s ethos. Not only is one in three customers going to leave you for a competitor after a bad experience, but others will see your failure. To make things worse, 36% of people have used their social to shame a company for poor customer service.

Customer support, we have a problem!

So social media customer support is particularly powerful, and companies should be taking advantage of it. But how are companies responding to this shift?

Companies are failing. No, that’s an understatement. Companies are failing miserably. For example, the average response time on social is 10 hours. (Remember, how people are only willing to wait four hours?) And that’s “if” they respond. Brands reply to just 11% of people, which means 89% of social messages go ignored

Is your company discounting or ignoring your new responsibilities on social media? Here are some steps to assess your company’s effectiveness in providing customer support via social channels.  

Asking, “What channels do my customers prefer?”

You need to realize that customer support preferences vary. Preferences can change because of specific customer demographics, or because of the type of service or product you offer. So don’t assume that because one company is bombarded with customer support requests on Facebook, that it’s the same for your company.

So you must find out what channels your customers want to use. You can reach out to your social media specialist to help evaluate if your customers are going to social media channels. Also consider polling your customers—ask them directly. Look at studies and investigate what your competition offers. (Or what your competitors don’t offer; this could be a potential marketing differentiator). For the best assessment, employ all of these tactics.

Finding a solution

Jive is invested in customer support serving as competitive differentiator. And we’ve been successful: Forbes contributor, Shep Hyken, mentioned Jive as a disruptor in the telecommunications industry with “rock star” customer support. Part of Jive’s success is because we consciously addressed this change in customer support. 

Jive provides customer support on social channels, but we’ve found that majority of our customers prefer calling on the phone. Because the social media customer support demand wasn’t overwhelming, Sterling Snow implemented a procedure where Jive’s Social Media Specialist and a Customer Escalation Management Specialist collaborate.

Immediately after detecting a customer support inquiry on social media, Jive responds quickly. Gabby Greene, Jive’s Social Media Specialist, knows that speed is key: “I try to respond within 20 minutes. At the latest, I respond within the hour.” In our Social Media Specialist’s response, she let’s our customer know that someone will be reaching out to them soon.

“After the Social Media Specialist quickly sends over the inquiry information, I would call the client and fix everything on the back end. I’ll then report how the interaction went with our Social Media Specialist. That way our Social Media Specialist knows what to expect when they follow up with the client on social media. It’s kind of a clever way of controlling public dialogue.”

—Jive Customer Escalation Management Specialist

We’ve found that the collaboration between our Social Media Specialist and the Escalation Management Specialist is a winning combination.

Creating a marketing advantage

The statistics clearly show that it’s a necessity to implement some sort of social media support. The amount of scaffolding you’ll need to provide for social support depends on your customers’ preferences. If you’re customers prefer other channels—and you only have a few social media inquiries every month—follow a similar solution to Jive. But if your customers prefer social media customer support, you may need to consider dedicated employees to support these efforts and a more comprehensive social customer solution like SproutSocial

No matter how much scaffolding it requires, all companies need to evaluate and create an option for social media customer support. It’s the future of customer support . . . and marketing.

For more information and insight into Jive’s successful customer support, please read “How to Handle Negative Online Reviews: 7 Jive Secrets“ and click below to download a free copy of our white paper. For additional tips on setting up procedures and policies for social media customer support, we also recommend this excellent Forbes article, Social Customer Care Is The New Marketing.”

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