It’s Thanksgiving Day and this gets tweeted at you. What do you do?

The customer service hotline is a thing of the past. It takes too long and you can’t lodge a complaint while a mile up in the air. More and more people turn to social media when something goes wrong. Companies are learning to react. Quickly.

One minute after Esaí Vélez tweeted out his complaint, JetBlue responded and started an air-to-ground conversation that was resolved in less than 25 minutes with Velez getting a credit from the airline.

This incident is just one of many in which consumers communicate to companies via social media rather than traditional service hotlines. In a recent survey of 2,000 Americans ages 18 to 65, 80 percent said calling traditional customer service phone lines is inconvenient. As an alternative, an estimated 67 percent of consumers use networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Instagram for customer service. It is not uncommon for large companies, major airlines for example, to receive up to 10,000 Tweets per day.

In order to uphold good customer service, organizations must adapt to this shift in business-consumer dynamic. Companies must cope with an increasing number of channels while continuing to uphold traditional hotline centers. Resources will be stretched, as accommodating for social media platforms requires extra time and money.

How are large companies adapting?

Companies are shifting towards a unified communication system, merging social media and traditional hotlines under one department and allowing service representatives to handle any customer service situation regardless of platform. By training agents across all channels, including telephone, email, text messaging and social media, a complete picture of a customer’s history and interactions are integrated into a single stream.

In 2017, Forbes Insights and Sabre Corporation partnered to survey operations, marketing, information technology and finance executives from the world’s largest airlines. They concluded that unified technology and data are vital in improving airline operations, customer experience and profits.

How are small companies adapting?

Not every company has the inclination or resources to implement a unified system. For many owners, particularly those of small businesses, taking a fragmented approach is beneficial.

Some organizations believe that agents who are experienced in working with customers over the phone may not be the best choice for handling service inquiries over social media, so they leave social media customer service to the marketing team. This separation of service hotline and social media ensures each customer is connected to the company’s most qualified personnel based on familiarity with platform.

Other options include embedding the social media team alongside the customer service center so that representatives are available to assist with online inquiries. Companies can also provide the social media team with a set of guidelines for handling service issues.

How are you answering social media?

Regardless of size or industry, it is important to invest the resources into providing the best possible customer service. Social media is an increasingly important part of that support. Here are four ways to building a more unified customer service system:

  1. Do not neglect call centers, but expand other platforms.
  2. Implement regular cross-team training.
  3. Share goals and metrics across all teams.
  4. Create shared practices and policies.