Social Media Research

42 Percent of Consumers Complaining in Social Media Expect 60 Minute Response Time

Jay Baer Blog PostIn just a couple of weeks, I’ll be launching (along with Jason Falls, Mark Schaefer, Tom Webster, and our partners at Edison Research) the newest edition of The Social Habit. Landmark, legitimate research into how social media is used, and by whom. I’ve seen the raw data, and it’s a mind-blower. There’s still time to subscribe to this edition (which also gets you exclusive access to our grand unveiling Webinar on October 11), so if you haven’t parted with your dollars yet, please do so. It’ll be worth every penny, and then some. (if you’re not satisfied, I’ll refund you money personally. guaranteed)

We’ll have many more eye-popping findings in The Social Habit research, but today I wanted to tantalize you with some data about customer expectations for social customer service.

Is Social Customer Service the New Telephone, or the Next Email?

The provision of customer service via social media channels has become nearly axiomatic, especially in B2C industries with high volumes of contact. It’s become one of the Big Three customer service channels, joining phone and email to form the triad of support modalities. Certainly, you could use postal mail, fax, or live chat for customer service, but those are just drops in the bucket compared to the Big Three.

Historically, customer expectations for phone support are far different than those for email support. We don’t have data on phone support in this version of The Social Habit, but I think we can stipulate that when you use the phone, you expect a synchronous response – even if hold times can become excruciatingly long when “call volumes are abnormally heavy.” Email is different. You send a support email (or fill out a contact form, which is the same mechanism), and you expect a response in a few hours, or a day or so.

But what about social media? Are our expectations for response more urgent and similar to phone, or less urgent like email? We decided to find out, and our findings paint a difficult and resource-intensive picture for business.

Among respondents to The Social Habit who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 32% expect a response within 30 minutes.

Further, 42% expect a response within 60 minutes. Is your company prepared to handle social media inquiries within the hour? A few are. Most are not, in my experience, which potentially creates a disillusionment gap between customers’ anticipated response time, and your actual ability to provide a response.

Certainly, consumers understand that social media staffing patterns change at night, and on weekends, right? They don’t expect round-the-clock support, do they?

Actually, they do in many cases.

Our research found that among those respondents who have ever attempted to contact a brand, product, or company through social media for customer support, 57% expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours.


And the water gets even hotter. We ran a cross-tab of the data set and discovered that 24% expect a reply within 30 minutes, period.

24% of American Internet Users 12+ Who Have Contacted a Brand in Social Media,Expect a Reply Within 30 Minutes, Regardless of When the Contact Was Made.

Can You Handle the Truth?

When you hear talk about the need to “scale social media” this is one of the reasons why it’s an important conversation. (See and download excellent ebook from Sprinklr on this topic, including some thoughts from me and a bunch of other social media thinkers). Are customer expectations realistic? And can you possibly meet those expectations with a centralized approach to social customer service?

Quick note on methodology: This isn’t some “we asked 42 people” survey. The respondent base – just the people who HAVE reached out to a company for support via social – is 690 persons from a sample of over 3,000 American social media users. Real data = real answers for your business.

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Facebook Comments


  1. debng says

    I just shared this with my team, Jay. And I challenged the community team to make it our mission to give a response within 60 minutes. It’s not always possible, especially when you have to deal with time zones and waiting on others for answers  – but I think it’s entirely doable.Thanks!

    • ChrisPratt says

      debng Great point about waiting on others for answers. Yes…. 30/60 minutes is pretty easy if all the answers are in the head of (or accessible by) the person doing the answering. When you must rely on others, though, it’s now a metric that is out of your control. Frustrating for you and more so for the customer.

  2. CarChickMWB says

    @DCAutoGeek I recently shared another infographic about the rise of social customer service on the @BeekeeperGroup blog. Interesting eh?

    • DCAutoGeek says

      @carchickmwb I read it. As for the question: can it apply to “advocacy-based orgs” – Yes, yes & yes. Social media IS the new lobbyist.

  3. MMMotorsports says

    @DCAutoGeek Totally. I tweeted a company last night. Still haven’t received an answer and it really chaos my hide.

  4. KDHungerford says

    That’s interesting! I would love to know if there are figures of WOM and paying forward good service; providing poor or slow service is almost worse than providing none at all – but are there numbers coming out highlighting the pay-off for adequate or great response times? Are the customer who are the most demanding the ones who turn around and rave and share the good experience openly with friends to say thank you?  

      • KDHungerford says

          JayBaer  Thanks Jay. Indeed *demanding* isn’t very scientific. I’m always on the hunt for metrics and data that support increased investment in customer service – can’t wait to read the report! 

  5. MarkMasavage says

    @Jon_Ferrara that seems like a favorable time. My expectations would be minutes considering monitoring tools and mobility

  6. jeffprellwitz says

    Great data @jaybaer! We can set expectations like how GetSatisfaction lists their hours gsfnhelp. Or respond with “we’ve received your question and are investigating”.

      • says

        JayBaer jeffprellwitz  Thanks for the GSFNHelp shout out! Totally agree that most people simply want an acknowledgement that they’ve been heard by the company. And the faster the company can acknowledge then the more likely they are to diffuse a difficult situation. However, if you do respond with a “we’re working on it”-type response, then the key is to make sure you follow up accordingly… ;)Great post, Jay!

  7. says

    Interesting facts considering the fast pace world we live in, and where consumers look for an immediate response most of the time.I agree with debng that is completely doable to respond to a consumer within a 60 min. window.Just think about it, an inquiry is an opportunity and the the longer you take to act on it, the higher the risk of loosing it.

  8. Raquel_NG says

    @epaDesign bueno bueno bueno… Deberían las marcas educar a se consumidores para dar servicio en vez de exigir como hacen muchos?

  9. JPKreiss says

    @WarrenWhitlock @jaybaer Not surprising. The web has changed the rules. @dmscott even wrote a book about it.

  10. Oli Adams says

    Is this US-only? I wonder if it would be the same for the UK.
    Would it be a massive generalisation to say that British people prefer to complain in writing as we’re a bit pathetically polite and don’t like confrontation? I usually back down altogether when the only option is to ‘phone. I think some companies do this deliberately? Twitter is my preferred method now as it’s so public and companies fall over themselves to rectify your problem. The only problem with that is that you’re limited to 140 characters 😉

  11. says

    Do you happen to have any data on the cost of resolving customer service issues via social media vs. resolving them by telephone or email? That would be interesting…

  12. Chris Salter says

    After a long drawn out conversation with a UK delivery company that ONLY supports customers over social media, i think guidelines need to be put in place when supporting customers over social media,

    I would like to see guidlines put in place where if the query cannot be fully answered in one single answer then the company must offer the option of a telephone number,

    The conversation too and fro’d through about 20 messages, with around a 20 minute wait for each answer, in the end they had no option but to give me a number that has a hidden option to speak to a human, at that point the issue was resolved within about 90 seconds

    Social media is NOT a free company helpdesk and certainly shouldnt be used as one.

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