Technology has transformed almost all aspects of business operations, but one area still needs attention in many companies: social customer service. 

In today's consumer-centric world, when online reviews or social comments can bolster or sink a business, no business can afford to ignore an angry customer. Yet many are doing just that. 


Possibly businesses still don't understand the role that social media plays in customer service. But they need to.

As Wasp Barcode puts it, "How you manage an irate customer can have long-term consequences for your business. Remember, we live in the age of online reviews. One scathing review can cripple the prospects for a new business." Or an established business, for that matter.

Forrester's 2015 study, “The Future of Customer Service” noted that today “executives don't decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do.” The study found that “changes such as the explosion of digital communications, mobility and insights gained from big data are having a profound impact on customer expectations.”

Set Your Watches

Just what DO consumers expect?

Immediacy. Or just about. Here are some eye-opening statistics gathered by Sentiment:

  • 66 percent of consumers expect a response on social media within an hour. 56 percent of consumers want a response within 30 minutes (Ovum)
  • 72 percent of customers who post a complaint on Twitter expect a response within an hour (West Interactive Infographic)
  • The average retailer response time on Twitter is 4 hours and 5 minutes (Eptica)

These numbers have already increased compared to an Oracle Survey conducted in 2012 (as reported by Zendesk) — which means businesses have to get this sorted quickly. Because the need for social customer service is also only going to increase.

It's Good for Businesses, Too

But just because it's something consumers want and expect doesn't mean it isn't also an advantage for businesses. One thing good social listening offers is an opportunity to catch problems before they escalate to the point of customer rage — always preferable. Why? Because:

  • Consumers are much more likely to share negative experiences than positive ones
  • Taking care of an annoyed customer is much easier (and less expensive) than taking care of one whose rage has boiled over to the point of no return

Groove blogger Len Markidan cites a study by Bain & Company that concluded, “when companies engage and respond to customer service requests over social media, those customers, on average, end up spending 20 to 40 percent more with the company.” That's definitely an incentive.

Though all businesses aren't using social media for customer service yet, a Gartner study predicts that 90 percent of them will be by 2020. And when you hear the success companies like HP are having, it's hard not to see it as a better — as opposed to just more modern — option.

According to Salesforce, "in Europe, HP’s social media support agents can handle up to 40 percent more customers per day than phone agents, and the average handle time for Facebook and Twitter is three times quicker than chat and twice as fast as phone support."

Meanwhile, the stakes of not embracing social customer support will also become higher. Says Markidan, “One Gartner study found that companies who ignore support requests on social media see an average churn rate that’s 15 percent higher than companies who don’t.”

So the verdict here is "undebatable" as Markidan puts it. Social customer service is a legitimate area businesses need to master — or consumers will take their spending power elsewhere. Don't let it come to that.

Title image CC BY 2.0 by  stimpsonjake