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Why Social Messaging is the Future of Customer Experience

The always-on, digital-first consumers of today don’t have the time to hold for a customer service agent. Where once customers would reflexively dial a toll-free number or send a web form into the ether, now, they send direct messages to brands on social media—expecting timely, superior service when they do.

Between 2020-2021, there was a 110% increase in consumers who identified social messaging as their preferred channel to resolve customer service issues. Businesses are following suit, and 90% of executives agree that in the next three years, social will become the primary communication channel to connect with existing and prospective customers

The COVID-19 pandemic may have been a tipping point, but this trend was a long time coming according to Gerard Murnaghan, General Manager and Vice President of Sprout Social. “Consumers want three things—convenience, speed and service. Social messaging offers all three, providing a human touch at a level of accessibility which cuts out the long wait times and expense of helplines.”

Social messaging channels are also advantageous for customer service agents. In fact, agents are 50% more likely to want to message with a customer than use traditional methods, because they’re able to work on multiple tickets at once and return to a conversation at any time.

Quick, convenient service contributes to a positive customer experience (CX), but 80% of consumers also expect businesses on social to interact with their customers in more meaningful ways. The social messaging surge is an opportunity for brands to meet those rising expectations, but marketing departments can’t do it alone. Companies that build a coordinated approach to social messaging stand to transform their customer experience in a way that increases loyalty and drives revenue.

Social media messaging is a core function of Sprout Social’s social media management suite and our friends at Zendesk—champions of customer service—are as passionate about messaging as we are. Together, we’ve put together this guide to help your business integrate social messaging best practices into your CX strategies.

Tailor the customer experience on their communication channel of choice

While service tickets are meant to be resolved and closed, messaging channels facilitate ongoing relationships with customers. 

“Messaging is the gateway to providing real, authentic conversational experiences—the kinds of experiences your customers expect and deserve,” says Mike Gozzo, Vice President of Product at Zendesk.

There are plenty of reasons people will message your business. Whatever the motive, brands can use social messaging to turn good conversations into great experiences.

Provide one-on-one customer support

It can’t be stressed enough: how you care for your customers distinguishes you from your competitors.

Social messaging is an accessible, direct line to your brand that consumers will use to sort out order inquiries, billing issues, product questions, quality concerns and more. In a one-on-one conversation, your brand representatives can focus specifically on the needs of that customer in the moment. Plus, it’s an opportunity to humanize your brand, remind customers that there’s a person behind the screen and create personal connections.

Redirect public questions and complaints  

Often customers will start a conversation with your brand by leaving a public comment on your post or tagging your brand with an @mention. When those interactions involve a customer service request, sensitive subject or other issues that would be better handled privately, it’s best to transition the conversation to social messaging.

In a private conversion, customers will feel more comfortable sharing identifiable details like order confirmation numbers, email addresses and phone numbers. This also creates a safer space for consumers to share candid, but valuable, feedback.

Support social commerce

The vast majority of executives agree that the future of commerce will be social. We’re already seeing instances of major brands investing in tools to enable ordering via Facebook Messenger and Instagram. As social becomes a bigger point of sale, having a social messaging strategy and the right tools in place to meet customers where they made their purchase will be even more important.

Practice proactive customer service outreach

Gartner predicts that by 2025, outbound customer engagement interactions will outnumber inbound.

By combining rich customer and social data, businesses can identify opportunities to proactively support customers through messaging platforms. When done effectively, this will minimize customer effort, reduce service tickets and demonstrate that your brand is attuned to your customers’ needs.

Keep in mind that when a business sends an outbound message—whether that’s an ad or something more transactional like a receipt—the customer can respond in the same conversation thread about anything at any time.

Tools like Sprout and Zendesk, which sync message history and customer data, will help ensure that your team isn’t caught off guard and has the context to engage with individual consumers in consistently meaningful ways.

Effectively integrate social messaging into your customer experience

Social messaging is one (increasingly important) piece of your broader customer experience strategy, but it can’t be managed in isolation. Nor can it be relegated solely to your social team.

Zendesk’s CX Trends Report 2021 found that high-performing companies are more likely to have adopted omnichannel support strategies, and businesses with limited support channels risk falling behind.

In fact, according to Zendesk’s research, leading companies offer twice as many customer support channels and are four times more likely than their peers to offer support across channels without losing context.

“Understanding who the customer is, where they’re coming from, and what they’ve talked about or bought from you in the past is crucial for delivering a personalized experience,” says Gozzo. “But context can be tricky to maintain in a world of disconnected conversation channels. That’s why an omnichannel strategy is so important.”

The customer ultimately doesn’t care if different teams are managing your public social feeds versus private support messages—or any other channel for that matter. What they do care about are consistency, understanding, speed and solutions. Here are three ways to ensure your business can deliver on all counts.

Assess your team structure, workflows and alignment

Increasing customer service efforts on social media will blur org chart lines between marketing and customer service but that doesn’t necessarily guarantee cohesion between the two disciplines.

Siloed social and customer service teams using the same social media platforms inherently adds confusion and puts brands at risk of duplicating customer service efforts. As your business brings customer service representatives into the social space, collaboration between teams is paramount in creating a seamless experience. To make sure your teams support one another without getting their wires crossed:

  • Decide which types of customer inquiries and inbound messages will be handled by social versus customer service.
  • Create workflows that enable social teams to redirect messages to customer service agents and vice versa.
  • Document clear brand guidelines so voice and tone remain consistent across teams and messaging channels.
  • Schedule recurring meetings to ensure that everyone involved is on the same page and exchanging insights from customer conversations.

Institute clear, shared goals and a tracking system

Customer service metrics help businesses track how well they’re contributing to their primary goal—achieving and maintaining high customer satisfaction.

“One of the many advantages of digital customer service is that everything can be tracked and measured. But when there are so many metrics in play, it’s crucial to understand which ones matter most to your business,” says Murnaghan.

When it comes to creating a positive experience with a brand on social, 67% of consumers identified responsive customer service as the most important contributing factor. Within Sprout Social, users can find standard response metrics like first reply time, reply wait time, reply rate and analyses of your teams’ responsiveness during business hours. These metrics are also available at an individual level, so each person can remain informed of and accountable for their performance.

Additionally, brands need to be aware of customer sentiment and satisfaction, pre- and post-service interaction. Zendesk has customer satisfaction and helpdesk metrics, including CSAT scores, resolution times and support agent performance, baked right into the platform.

Businesses can also adopt a social message tagging system to gain more qualitative insights.

For instance, the customer service team for TUI UK, a leading travel brand, uses Sprout Social’s Tagging capabilities to keep track of recurring themes and topics across inbound messages. This became especially valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic. As its brand social team pivoted away from their planned content, they were able to use tag data to hone in on their customers’ top concerns. With these insights, TUI UK was able to prioritize the most relevant content and proactively communicate to support their customers.

Adopt tools that support and empower your teams

As customer service and social teams tackle social messaging together, technology can help accelerate collaboration, communication and customer satisfaction.

Today, businesses can leverage the power of both Sprout and Zendesk in a single, bidirectional platform.

“Sprout was developed with the needs of multiple teams in mind, not just social. With the addition of the Zendesk integration, businesses can get a 360-degree view of a single customer record without leaving the platform. This level of clarity at the click of a button eliminates many of the pain points associated with the evolution of social customer service,” says Murnaghan.

With Sprout Social’s Zendesk integration, your social and support teams can focus on what they do best while providing a frictionless customer experience across all messaging channels and beyond.

Prepare your business for the future of customer experience

Social is and will continue to be front-and-center in the customer experience. As social messaging continues to gain traction as customers’ preferred channel for communication, don’t let your business get left behind. Embrace collaboration between social and customer service teams and invest in tools that power conversational customer experiences.

Request a personalized demo of Sprout Social.

Start messaging your customers with Zendesk.


About Sprout Social

Sprout Social offers deep social media listening and analytics, social management, customer care and advocacy solutions to more than 25,000 brands and agencies worldwide. Sprout’s suite of solutions supports every aspect of a cohesive social program and enables organizations of all sizes to extend their reach, amplify their brand and create the kind of real connection with their consumers that drives their businesses forward. Headquartered in Chicago, Sprout operates across major social media networks, including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and LinkedIn. 

About Zendesk

Zendesk started the customer experience revolution in 2007 by enabling any business around the world to take their customer service online. Today, Zendesk is the champion of great service everywhere for everyone, and powers billions of conversations, connecting more than 100,000 brands with hundreds of millions of customers over telephony, chat, email, messaging, social channels, communities, review sites and help centers. Zendesk products are built with love to be loved. The company was conceived in Copenhagen, Denmark, built and grown in California, taken public in New York City, and today employs more than 4,000 people across the world. Learn more at www.zendesk.com.