Using Surveys to Close the Social Media Customer Service Gap

how surveys can bridge the customer service gap

Sadly recent research reveal that there’s a huge gap between the level of customer service that consumers expect on social media and what brands typically deliver.

While audiences are looking for an answer in around an hour, average response times are over a day.

For many brands, no matter how good their intentions, it can be almost impossible to react to customer input in real time.

Fortunately, these three steps can help you better manage the resources that you do have to delight your customers with proactive social media service.

Step 1: Collect Customer Feedback

Customer surveys come in all shapes and sizes, not just the ones printed at the bottom of our receipts. You can use just about any format, but the important thing is to gather information directly from your customers about their problems.

One of the simplest feedback systems is based on a Net Promoter Score, or NPS. It simply asks customers how likely they would be to recommend your product or service. They select an option from 0 (very unlikely) all the way to 10 (very likely).

nps example

A great way to supplement this quantitative question is by asking people a simple follow up qualitative question, such as, “What one thing could we improve?”

These kinds of questions can be a gold mine of ideas for how better to serve your customers on social media, but you’ll never get access to this information if you don’t ask.

Step 2: Create Answers to Common Questions

Once you’ve got a good number of responses you should start to see patterns emerging.

Open text analysis and bucketing responses are great ways to find commonalities among these kinds of questions, which you can then use to create resources for your customers.

If, like us, you make software, documentation is a fantastic way to answer specific questions that people have about how to use your product.

For those supporting non-software products, content on a blog, an FAQ, or in a resources section of your website is a great way to offer up this information.

Regardless of the location or the format, make sure that the information is easily searchable and accessible from any and all devices. It’s going to be valuable for your customers who are looking for answers, but it will also be your go-to source for the people who are manning your customer-facing social media profiles.

Step 3: Share Answers Proactively and Reactively

Once you know what your customers’ common pain points are, and you have high quality, easily consumable resources to meet those needs, then you can start sharing them via social media before issues come up.

Are your feedback surveys showing an increase in concerns about your return policy? Tweet a link to that page on your site, and then share a downloadable PDF on Facebook.

And if customer service representatives see a social media post mentioning this issue, they’ll have easy access to the information the customer needs. They can find the posts on your social media profiles or on your website, whichever is most expedient.

This makes it much easier for your customer service team to oversee social media outside of normal business hours, because solid content great reduces the time commitment needed.

Finally, putting the information that your customers need into their hands before they even have to ask is a great way to surprise and delight your audience. It can also help bridge the gap between the response times that customers expect and what you have the resources to deliver.

Background on the Social Media Gap

There have been several recent studies on how customers expect to get answers on social media, and while the data is slightly different the feeling is the same: customer service on social media is much slower than people expect.

Convince and Convert surveyed 690 people who had attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for support. They found that:

  • 32% expect a response within 30 minutes
  • 42% expect a response within 60 minutes
  • 57% expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours

If you already have resources on hand that answer your customers’ most commonly asked questions, you’ll have a significant advantage when trying to provide speedy answers to customer inquiries.

Ongoing customer feedback systems are one of the only ways to collect this data over time, so if you don’t have one in place now is a great time to start.

Eptica did a more specific study on 500 U.S. retailers to measure their average response times across multiple customer service channels. They then surveyed 1,000 consumers on how long they were willing to wait for answers on those same channels.

The revealed gap was not kind to the retailers:

  • 77% of consumers didn’t want to wait more than 6 hours for an email response


  • The average email response time was 7 hours and 51 minutes (the worst performers took over 9 days).
  • 85% of consumers expected a Facebook reply within 6 hours


  • The average response time for companies on Facebook was 1 day, 3 hours, and 47 minutes.
  • 4% of consumers who tweeted about a company expected a response within an hour


  • The average response for a company on Twitter was 1 day, 7 hours, and 23 minutes.

Examples of Proactive Customer Service

Olark, a customer support chat service, is helping its customers prepare for Cyber Monday by offering a survival manual ebook on their Twitter account:

cybermonday survival guide olark

They understand that their customers will be stressed and busy on this particular day, so they are getting ahead of the demand by offering information proactively.

(Hopefully they used survey data to inform the content of the ebook so it’s as useful as possible.)

Squarespace, a provider of business websites, knew they were in for trouble back in 2012 when hurricane Sandy was heading for their New York data center. But they communicated before problems arose, providing resources for further information when appropriate, and their customers raved about it.

square space social media updates
square space customer responses

The Power of Proactive Customer Service

When you use your customers’ own feedback to create valuable resources and then share it on social media proactively, you can get ahead of the gap between expectations and reality.

You also create a repository of helpful information that your customer service team can access at any time to decrease reactive responses times too.

And it all starts with an easy-to-use customer feedback survey.

For more on giving excellent customer service wherever your customers need it, check out this great infographic:

Created by

Best Practices to Boost Your Customer Service Across Channels


Join the Conversation
  • Every business needs to have a unique strategy; they must respond proactively in order to build and protect their reputation. Customers expect businesses to know their expectations when they visit either the physical store or its website.

    • sgizmo

      Very well put, Hitesh. Thank you for your comment!