Social media has greatly enhanced how we communicate with one another, discover new interests and hobbies, find work or business opportunities, and engage with customers who find us through a variety of channels.

Social is also redefining how companies provide customer service, not just in how it's implemented, but also the way in which customers reach out to brands. My marketing agency, Web Profits, uses social channels on a regular basis to proactively help customers and prospects alike, and a growing number of brands are taking the same approach.

"The provision of customer service via social media channels has become nearly axiomatic, especially in B2C industries with high volumes of contact," writes marketer Jay Baer of Convince and Convert. "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."

This new approach to customer service has proven to drastically lower overhead costs while reducing churn and improving the lifetime value of the customer.

If you're setting up a traditional customer service model for your SaaS, get ready for a pivot. Here are seven statistics that demonstrate why your social channels should be integrated with your customer service team.

1. Customers Prefer Social Media Support

I can't think of a single instance where I enjoyed the process of dealing with an automated phone tree or having to wait on hold for customer service. A lot of people can relate to that.

According to Nielsen, as many as 33% of customers prefer to contact brands through social media channels as opposed to using the phone and waiting for a human to answer their questions.

That makes sense, given the mobility of social media, as well as the ability for any customer to submit and reply to service-related conversations wherever they are. They'll initiate that contact whether you use social for support or not, so make sure you're paying attention.

2. Social Customer Service Is More Common Than You Think

While just 33% prefer to use social media for contacting brands, nearly 70% of consumers have previously used social media for customer service-related issues on at least one or more occasions.

I can recall one encounter with a promotional products company where they made a mistake with a print run but refused to credit or refund me, and they would not reprint the short run without incurring additional costs. The agent I spoke with on the phone was adamant that he would do nothing.

So I made a public post on social media and tagged their brand. In that same post, I also tagged an executive from their company. Without going into specifics, the matter was resolved quickly in my favor. For the record, I still use that company because of how they handled the issue.

Which brings me to the next statistic...

3. Poor Social Media Responses Cost You Revenue

If that company had handled my issue poorly or never responded to me at all, they would have lost my business. That kind of thing shouldn't happen, but you can see it every day from small, local businesses to larger, more well-known brands that fail to adequately respond to customer issues in social channels.

And that failure to respond can cost you: Gartner, Inc.'s research found that poor response times or lack of responses can lead to as much as a 15% increase in customer churn.

And you'd never know about it if you're not actively monitoring social media for service-related issues.

"According to the White House Office of Consumer Affairs, 96% of customers who have a bad experience will not tell the business," writes Alex Turnbull, founder of the customer support app Groove. "Instead, they'll simply take their business elsewhere. As a support company, we've used that insight to educate our users to keep open communication with their customers, so that issues get flagged long before they become big enough to drive people away."

4. Customers View Their Time as Valuable

Sometimes, it's not just about fixing the issue. When you open other channels that provide more rapid delivery of support, your customers will take notice.

According to Forrester, over 75% of adults say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service. Customers certainly want their issues addressed, but when they're answered quickly, customers will feel like you value them and their time.

5. Customers Spend More

It's a fairly simple concept: if you delight your customers and take care of their issues, then they will stick around. That boosts the lifetime value of the customer. According to Bain & Company, when companies use social media to actively engage customers on service-related issues, those customers will spend 20% to 40% more on average with that company.

6. It's a Growing Trend

The use of social for customer service isn't a temporary fad. Customers are becoming more aware of the power of brand engagement. Publicly addressing service-related issues tends to get things done more efficiently. That's why more and more customers are gravitating toward this method of getting their issues resolved.

According to Twitter, the number of tweets directed at leading brands' customer service accounts has grown by nearly 3%.

7. B2C Companies Are Taking Note

Companies are starting to pay attention and are training their teams to handle social media-based customer service concerns. Twitter found that many leading B2C companies are responding to at least 60% of tweets directed at their brand handles or service accounts.

"Integrating social customer care efforts with service operations, while also boosting coordination across the full range of social media functions, will probably become an increasingly important part of many companies' strategies for engaging customers," writes Gadi BenMark, President of McKinsey Social. "After all, they will only become more insistent that companies hear them out and deal with their problems in the social spaces where they are spending much of their time."

With this level of widespread implementation, social media-based customer service is something that you should consider for your own brand. It won't be long before your customers, whether B2B or B2C, will be expecting your team to be readily available via social media.

Do you currently use social media for managing customer service-related issues? Which channels do your customers prefer for communication? Share your comments with me below: