Marketers and social media practitioners understand how critical it is for businesses to deliver swift and satisfying support to their customers. So, when they’re the ones seeking support, they, of course, expect nothing less from their own customer experience. And for us at Sprout Social, these professionals are our key customers. We have ensured that we do all we can to provide them with best-in-class support.

To continuously build on our strengths and identify areas for improvement in how we provide customer care and support, the team at Sprout turns to our own social media management platform for insight. In late 2022, following an analysis of an Inbox Activity Report, we saw a clear opportunity to decrease our average time to action during targeted customer support hours—from 6 p.m. to 8 a.m. CT.

A screenshot of a post on Sprout Social's Threads account that reads, "If there was a Marketing version of #SpotifyWrapped based on brands you engaged with, what brand* would most definitely show up in yours?"

“The Inbox Activity Report, which provides a holistic view of our team’s social care efforts, breaks down by the hour when our average time to action is highest and lowest,” explained Christina Nelson, Program Manager. “That helped us to identify the exact time periods when our response time was higher than we preferred. Sprout’s own reporting data indicated we had an opportunity to expand our after-hours social coverage. We also wanted to ensure we had a team trained to provide that personalized support.”

Our aim is to meet customers in the moment, wherever they’re at, and say, ‘here is what you need.’ We want our customers to feel heard and taken care of.
Christina Nelson
Program Manager, Customer Support

Strengthening the bridge between customer and social support to improve

Sprout’s social media team, which includes Social Media Strategist Greg Rokisky, first identified a need to enhance social support during the targeted customer support hours after reviewing the response rate for messages that arrived in Sprout’s Smart Inbox during that period. These messages included time-sensitive requests from our international customer base. “We realized there was an opportunity for the social team to partner with our customer support team to improve the response rate,” said Rokisky.

Image description: Screenshot of Sprout Social's Instagram page featuring multiple posts in a grid.

Our customer support agents who work during the targeted customer support hours are located primarily in the Asia-Pacific and Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) regions. Their core responsibilities include addressing customer requests for technical support and basic product education via email, live chat and the phone. Nelson said the team would always strive to address social support requests during their busy shifts, but it wasn’t easy to find the time given all of their other priorities.

An analysis of the Inbox Activity Report also showed that agents replying to social messages during the target hours weren’t always tagging those messages in a consistent way. Rokisky said that made it challenging for the social team to organize, track and use those messages in their reporting later and uncover opportunities to deepen relationships with our customers. Rokisky and his team sought to alleviate this issue by providing the agents with more guidance on best practices for tagging.

“We recognized that strengthening the bridge between customer support and social support could help us all to deliver the ‘trifecta’ of social customer care effectively,” said Rokisky. “When we can provide personalized, timely care and meet customers where they’re at, it helps turn our customers into brand advocates. That’s powerful, and it helps Sprout maintain our solid reputation.”

The insights we gained from Sprout’s Inbox Activity Report allowed us to pinpoint precise gaps in our social support. That allowed us to take a targeted approach to improvement that required minimal effort—but delivered dramatic results.
Greg Rokisky
Social Media Strategist

Using data insights to create a new staffing strategy for handling social support requests

With their key objectives in focus—decreasing response times, increasing the tag rate, and smoothing the handoff of customer messages between customer support and social support—the social team, customer support team and social leadership at Sprout brainstormed strategies to achieve those goals.

They decided to pilot a “tiger team”—a group of tenured customer support agents already working for Sprout during the targeted customer support hours who could pivot to social support requests at select intervals during their regular shifts. Nelson said they used insights from the Inbox Activity Report to create a staffing strategy for the team, identifying the best times for agents to go into Sprout’s Smart Inbox and handle requests for social support.

Screenshot of Inbox Activity report builder highlighted in Sprout app. Highlighted portion includes text "view key performance metrics for received messages and inbox actions"

Each agent on the tiger team now dedicates a percentage of their regular shift to managing social support messages. They also communicate expectations for agents handling those requests, including specific instructions for managing tags.

Setting those expectations and establishing centralized ownership for social support led to quick and dramatic results. For example, Sprout saw a 37% increase in our tag rate from December to March 2023. We also saw a decrease of up to 55% in the average time to action during some periods we were targeting for improvement. “We were able to hit these metrics despite some of the tiger team agents being new to providing support on social,” Nelson noted.

Rokisky and Nelson both pointed to how easy it was for the agents to learn to use Sprout’s Smart Inbox, and they cited it as a top factor for the impressive results achieved during the pilot. “We provided basic training to the agents before they took on their own shifts,” said Rokisky. “We spent about 30 to 45 minutes going over potential issues they might encounter and shadowing them as they went through messages in the inbox. That’s all they needed to get going. It was beautiful.”

Automated rules in the Smart Inbox, like closing out new follower notifications, also helps the customer support agents focus on the messages that matter most. “The agents can devote their attention to questions that require them to dig a little deeper and spend more time helping our customers, instead of getting bogged down answering numerous, easy questions,” said Nelson.

Consistent tagging generates more insights and stronger reporting

Based on the tiger team’s success, Sprout’s social and customer support teams are formalizing the pilot program into a permanent process. They are also continuing to track average time to action metrics to identify where and when they may need to consider expanding social support coverage further.

A screenshot of the Sprout brand account responding to a social media user. The original comment said: Very Timely Indeed! ghost emoji. Sprout responded with: No tricks, just treats for y'all! candy emoji.

The teams have also been working closely with Sprout’s Professional Services staff to identify more ways to deliver outstanding, consistent support to our customers worldwide, at any time. One result of that collaboration is a saved replies repository that the agents can use to customize responses to social support requests.

Sprout’s Smart Inbox is an invaluable tool for our customer support team. It provides one shared space where we can see everything that is coming in, what has been completed and what still needs to be done. That visibility reduces the need for us to ask anyone to hop on a call after their work hours to get everyone up to speed.
Christina Nelson
Program Manager, Customer Support

Another positive outcome of the pilot program was the opportunity to conduct a thorough tag audit. “We created and documented a shareable tagging infrastructure,” Rokisky said. “And now that we have agents providing consistent tagging around the clock, we can pull more comprehensive insights that can prove ROI to our leadership. That, in turn, is helping us to listen to our customers more effectively and respond to their needs more proactively.”

Rokisky and Nelson also noted that the success of the pilot program speaks to all the work their teams have done, in general, over the past several years to improve workflows, training, guidelines and more, as part of Sprout’s ongoing efforts to provide the swift, high-quality support that our customers around the world expect.

Find out how insights from Sprout Social can help your business deliver standout care and support to your customers at any hour, wherever they’re located, by requesting a free demo today.