It’s the all-too-common moment that customer support agents dread.

Retweets and mentions start adding up and suddenly your brand has been put on blast by public customer complaints.

Twitter may feel like the best way to interact with the 90% of consumers who have used social to communicate with brands. But in reality, social customer support isn’t the key to crisis management—it can be a crisis in and of itself.

Twitter Has Become the Must-Have Support Channel

“Customer service is being disrupted in the same way that marketing has been disrupted, but we don’t talk about it enough.”—Jay Baer, author of Hug Your Haters

Around 2010, so many consumers were trying to connect with brands via Twitter that it became the must-have support channel. It may have felt awkward at first, but there are plenty of benefits to social support.

For customer support teams concerned with cutting costs from traditional channels and meeting customers where they are, Twitter seems like the perfect solution. You can respond to customers faster than with phone calls and reduce so much of the friction consumers have come to expect from traditional support.

Twitter gives support agents an opportunity to address high volumes of complaints quickly. In social support, speed of response is often prioritized above all else. And for good reason—respecting customers’ time is essential to sparking loyalty.

But for all the benefits of social customer support, it can’t carry your entire strategy.

Where Social Customer Support Falls Short

Despite helping support agents answer social complaints, Twitter certainly has its customer support shortcomings:

  • Communication Limitations: Even with the recent bump to 280 characters, Twitter still doesn’t leave you with much room to solve complex complaints. You inevitably have to route some customers to another support channel. And at that point, they have to start the whole process from the beginning.
  • Prioritization Is Fruitless: Prioritizing complaints helps you address large volumes of messages. But if speedy responses are the key to Twitter support, what happens to lower-priority customers?
  • Public Isn’t Always Good: One benefit of Twitter support is that your customers get to see that you’re meeting the needs of other consumers. It works both ways, though. Any ongoing problem will be fully visible to your audience and can have negative consequences if handled poorly.

A study from Conversocial found that 88% of consumers were less likely to purchase from a company that left social questions unanswered. If enough messages fall through the cracks because of the challenges I just mentioned, your business will start to suffer.

At first glance, it seems like consumers demand social support. What they’re really looking for is a frictionless conversation.

Conversational Customer Support Is Bigger than Twitter

After peaking between 2011 and 2013, fewer and fewer customers are turning to social for support.

The 65% of consumers who don’t use social media for support questions anymore see two major issues. One, they’ve realized that complicated questions will only lead them to external support channels. And two, they aren’t sure whether a brand is paying enough attention to answer their questions quickly.

Consumer preferences haven’t changed. Rather, they’ve always preferred a seamless, conversational support experience and social seemed like the best way to get it. Now, it’s up to go beyond social support and really meet customers where they are.

If your support strategy revolves around social media, phone calls, and emails, it’s time to make a change. These channels have a place, but only in a larger conversational support model.

Check out our Conversational Customer Support Playbook if you want to learn more. Avoid a crisis in your Twitter crisis management.