Businesses worldwide lose trillions every year due to poor service experiences. I spent over five years of my career at a leading customer service software company, and many more working with another leader in the space, Salesforce. I know how important service is to the overall customer experience. It’s hard to think of another business function that has such an outsized impact on customer loyalty, retention and lifetime value.

So why do so many marketing leaders continue to think of customer care as something that is “another department’s problem?” Marketing and care are two halves of the same whole. Do you care about your brand image? Do you care about overall customer sentiment about your company? Dive deep into your company’s NPS score, and the drivers behind it, and you’ll understand exactly what I’m talking about.

The continued and rapid evolution of social media—a channel typically owned by marketing—from an “amplification” touchpoint to a preferred destination for customers seeking support is forcing marketing leaders to play a larger role in their brand’s customer service strategies. Social media has already become essential to brand and consumer relationships; social customer care is now also becoming a bigger piece of the brand experience.

Brands that recognize this—and answer the call with faster, personalized care—are outshining the competition, both in individual interactions and at scale. Let’s take a deeper look at this.

Rethinking the customer journey

Many CMOs orient their team’s strategy around an “ideal” customer journey: Awareness, consideration, purchase. Many other CMOs are also thinking about how customer onboarding, adoption and retention come into play.

How do you deal with bumps in the road during a trial or after a purchase? When product questions, technical problems and missing orders inevitably bubble up, your customers will need to connect with you. And whether or not you show up for them on their channels of choice will influence their overall experience with your brand.

Traditionally, businesses provided customer service on their terms. We all know the feeling of being stuck on hold as the thousandth person in the queue. Or repeating your situation to multiple service reps. Slow, antiquated and frustrating means of communication became the norm for customers.

The old ways aren’t tolerated anymore. According to The Sprout Social Index™, 76% of consumers notice and appreciate when companies prioritize customer support on social, and an additional 76% value how quickly a brand can respond to their needs.

Your customers expect that you will provide fast, quality care on social media—and if you don’t, their loyalty is up for grabs.

The right social customer service interactions can help your customers love you even more…or quickly get them to research alternatives. They touch everyone from people who have never heard of your brand or bought from you, to existing customers and brand advocates. When marketing leaders make customer care a priority in the customer journey, everybody wins.

Building a world-class brand is everyone’s responsibility

Consumers are still price sensitive, audience demographics are in flux and customer needs are evolving at a rapid pace. One bad experience can cost you a customer for life. And when it happens on a public forum like social media, the outcome can be catastrophic.

(It’s a fun time to be a marketer, right?)

The Sprout Social Index™ revealed that 8% of service teams and 16% of marketing teams exclusively own social media customer care. Everyone else was somewhere in the middle. The majority of brands agree both teams must work in harmony to deliver best-in-class service.

A data visualization from The Sprout Social Index™ with the headline, "Who will own customer care in 2024." The visualization is blue, representing marketing, and orange, representing customer care. Only 16% of brands say marketing will exclusively own social customer care, and only 8% say customer service will. In every other category, the two orgs say they will share the function.

When social marketers alone manage social care, it can take several hours (or even days) for customers to be passed to the right service rep or get their questions answered. And when the service team is responsible for all social customer care, they can miss opportunities for positive engagement (in favor of dealing with complaints and escalations) and fail to pass on relevant customer insights.

When marketing and service teams work as partners, service agents can jump in immediately to resolve customer complaints. And social marketers can focus on crafting content, community engagement and interpreting customer data from service team interactions to make better decisions. This kind of collaboration requires both teams have compatible tools and adequate resources.

Collaboration should be more than a handoff

Many service professionals are dissatisfied with their existing tech stacks, and find it challenging to coordinate efforts with other teams. One-off DMs, long email chains and mismatched tools are to blame.

According to Q3 2023 Sprout Social Pulse Survey data, only 25% of customer care professionals rate their teams’ responses to customers on social as excellent, and only 32% are very confident in their team’s ability to handle a sudden influx of customer inquiries on social.

When reflecting on these numbers, alarm bells should sound.

Most care teams are working with piecemeal tech, leaving them underprepared and vital customer intelligence lost in limbo. This is especially concerning when it comes to social. Social is where care and marketing work most closely, and it’s a direct portal to understanding your brand performance, audience and industry. Decentralized, incompatible tools can add up to major opportunity costs.

Without shared tech to tap into social insights, care and marketing teams struggle to increase brand affinity. Almost all (94%) of business leaders agree social media data and insights help build brand reputation and loyalty. Another 88% agree social data is a critical tool in providing customer care.

A data visualization from The 2023 State of Social Media report with the headline: Impact of social media data and insights on business priorities. The impacts business leaders identified were: building brand and reputation loyalty (94%), improving competitive positioning (92%), gaining a better understanding of customers (91%), predicting future trends (89%) and moving business forward with reduced budgets (76%).

As the lines between marketing and customer service blur, marketing leaders need to do more than master the handoff of tasks and tickets between their teams. They need to truly work in tandem to shift brand perception—finding processes and tools that increase productivity and surface strategic knowledge.

Customer care gives you a competitive edge

When companies master customer service and marketing collaboration, they create the brand experience audiences are looking for. What marketer out there doesn’t want to be the best of the best?

According to the Index, consumers think the most memorable thing brands can do on social is respond to them. One-on-one engagement trumps publishing volume and jumping on trends. Rather than spamming their followers’ feeds with content, savvy brands prioritize responding to customers and use those interactions to amplify their brand values. Customer care and community engagement tactics have become a content strategy in their own right.

Data visualization from The 2023 Sprout Social Index™ that states 51% of surveyed consumers say the most memorable brands on social respond to customers. Responding ranked higher than creating original content, engaging with audience, publishing on-trend content, taking content risks, collaborating with content creators and influencers, and speaking out about causes and news that align with their values.

Customer care, and everything it entails (i.e., engaging with comments and questions, review management, personalization, cross-channel support), is the critical piece of the brand perception equation. With the right social data and technology, brands can integrate care into the mix and turn it into a true competitive advantage and revenue driver.

Take Casey’s, the fifth largest pizza chain in the US. The company consistently prioritizes responding to and delighting their customers on social, and has built an impressive care-as-content strategy. They’re quick to respond to customers in their signature empathetic and friendly tone, while addressing unique needs and pain points.

A screen of a X user (formerly Twitter) mentioning @CaseysGenStore on the platform, asking why they didn't receive a receipt. The brand was quick to respond and let the customer know they would follow up with the store to address the issue.

A screenshot of a conversation on X between Casey's and a fan. In the exchange, the fan is sharing a New York Times article that highlights gas stations that double as restaurants. The user's message reads: One trip to @CaseysGenStore would change these folks' religion. Casey's responded with: Amen (prayer hands emoji).

As another example, Patagonia, the outdoor retailer known for its authenticity and community, has a world-renowned brand reputation. Just like the helpfulness they’re known for in-store, the company provides stellar care on social. The people behind their customer care team are quick to jump in with outdoor expertise and information about their repair program and return policy.

A screenshot of a user engaging with @Patagonia on X. The user is sharing his favorite Patagonia daypack, which is 8-years-old. The brand follows up celebrating the user's choice, and offering a similar alternative that is currently offered for anyone else reading the conversation.

A screenshot of a user on X relishing Patagonia's superb return policy, and asking a question about what qualifies as part of their repair and return program. The brand is quick to reply, stating that it stands behinds all of its products and is committed to repairing and replacing all items brought into the store.

This level of orchestration only happens when marketing and customer service teams are in lock step.

Positive brand perception hinges on quality customer care

Customer service and marketing teams must be more aligned than ever before.

But CMOs and marketing leaders can’t let incompatible tech stacks and departmental silos define the customer experience. To truly deliver an amazing customer experience across the funnel, you must work with your customer service team to forge new processes, invest in the right resources and unite your teams in an unprecedented way.

Looking for more on the evolving customer care landscape, and how you can guide your company with an innovative strategy? Read about how Social Customer Care by Sprout Social fosters collaboration, enriches customer experiences and synthesizes customer data.