Online customer service: does it pay to be social?

5 min read

Short answer: yes (especially if you can do it in 9 seconds or less).

It’s not exactly a secret: our attention spans are shrinking. At last count, the average was said to be even shorter than that of a goldfish, which can be held for a full 9 seconds. Impressive, eh?

Blame it on social networking; blame it on digital technology; heck, you can even blame it on GMOs. But whatever you do, don’t underestimate it.

While social media and smartphones are often thought to be the main culprits in our so-called loss, it’s not necessarily all bad: some studies have shown that what people may be losing in terms of attention span, they’re actually gaining in abilities to multitask.

I guess that’s a fair trade? No matter.

What does matter, is how this affects you and your company and the way that you should be communicating with your audience.

First of all, do you know how your customers use social media? To share? To observe? To find out about events, news and other things?

‘Social media’ is typically defined as: (n.) forms of electronic communication (as websites for social networking and microblogging) through which users create online communities to share information, ideas, personal messages, and other content (such as videos).

Retrieved March 3, 2017, from

It’s somehow comforting to know that social media has a greater underlying purpose beyond selfies (guilty) and Chuck Norris memes.

Communication is key.

If social media isn’t already part of your game plan to engage your customers, it’s time to rethink your strategies.

Our attention spans didn’t shrink in a vacuum. Habits brought on by the advent of super lightweight digital technologies have played their parts. Social media users casually hop from one platform to another just to check out the latest news, post status updates, react to and share content with peers… all in under 9 seconds. (I kid, I kid. It’s probably more like 9 seconds or less per platform.)

Nearly everything has a digital address now, literally just a swipe, tap or click away.

If you’re not already using social media as a viable channel to communicate with your customers, consider the stats below:


  1. As of the end of 2016, 78% of Americans now have social media profiles. This indicates a 5% growth since the previous year, which is more than double the percentage of registered social media users from 2009. (Statista)

  2. 52% of Americans now have at least 2 or more social media accounts. (Pew Research)

  3. By the 4th quarter of 2015, Americans were spending on average 1.7 hours per day on social media alone. (Statista)

  4. 77% of all Americans own smartphones, compared to 35% in 2011. (Pew Research)

  5. By 2014, 75% of Americans were accessing social networking platforms from their smartphones on a daily basis. (Statista)

  6. 90% of consumers now expect a brand or organization to offer a self-service customer support portal; 60% of consumers have a more favorable view of the brand if their self-service offering is mobile-responsive. (2015 Global State of Multichannel Customer Service Report)

  7. As if that wasn’t enough, Bank of America’s 2014 report on trends in consumer mobility revealed that 91% of their clients say they wouldn’t last a day without their smartphones, beating out television (76%) and coffee (60%) by a landslide. (Bank of America).


  1. 53% of customers won’t call customer service about a problem because they dread having to deal with automated call services. So much so, that they’d rather give up on resolving the issue and just switch to a competitor. (NewVoiceMedia)

  2. 67% of customers who do call have hung up out of sheer frustration from not being able to speak to a real person. (American Express Survey 2011)

  3. 73% of consumers want the ability to solve product/service issues on their own; one-third say they’d ‘rather clean a toilet’ than speak with customer service. (2015 Aspect Consumer Experience Survey)

  4. 67% of customers have contacted a company via their social media site for servicing. (JD Power)

  5. Twitter’s 2015 look into their own data revealed that in just 2 short years, there was a 250% growth in Tweets directed at customer service accounts for high profile companies. (Customer Service on Twitter)

  6. Research shows that a single negative post on social media has, on average, as much impact on customer decisions as five positive posts. (McKinsey)

  7. Over 1 million people view tweets about customer service every week. Roughly 80% of those tweets are negative or critical in nature. (Touch Agency)


  1. Customers who engage with companies over social media are more loyal and they spend up to 40% more with those companies than other customers. (Bain and Company)

  2. Customer service on social media costs less than $1 per interaction, whereas telephone service averages $6 per call. (McKinsey)

  3. After experiencing poor customer service, 58% of consumers would never use that company again. 29% say they would also tell their friends and families to not use that company, and 34% say they would post about the experience on social media. (NewVoiceMedia)

  4. 70% of customers who have been assisted via social media return as your customers in the future. (Ambassador)

  5. 7 out of 10 Americans said they’d be willing to spend more on a product or service if the company was known for excellent customer service (American Express Survey 2011)

  6. 7 out of 10 customers say that if a complaint were resolved in their favor, they’d be willing to do business with that company again. (Lee Resources)

  7. Companies that don’t respond to their existing customers on social media tend to experience a 15% increase in churn rate. (Gartner)

A recent study by Forrester regarding customer service revealed that 67% of companies consider social media to be one of the most important channels of engaging with their customers (as well as yours).

With so many companies using social media for customer service these days, if you don’t pay attention to what your customers are saying, rest assured, your competitors will.

And just like in real life, where people talk about other people behind their backs, the same rules apply online. A study on Twitter showed that less than 3% of customers will directly tag a brand when they tweet about their experience with its product or service.

An abundance of negative posts left to linger and fester in cyberspace can have a devastating effect on your brand reputation. Social listening tools like Brand24 or Radian6 (among many other options) can help prevent this.

This short video does a good job explaining the importance of online reputation management for companies and brands — and what kinds of things have an affect on it.

Engage with your customers when they talk about your company on social media and open a dialogue. Whether it’s positive or negative, customer feedback is valuable.

Your customers are actually teaching you how to make your product or service better so that you can succeed; because customers want good products and services, while companies want more customers.

Smart businesses listen to what their customers say, and by reacting and responding quickly, they reap the benefits of being social.

For more resources on online customer service:

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