Report Details Social Media’s Impact on Customer Service

Remember the adage that a happy customer will tell one person and an unhappy customer will tell ten?  Now, with social media, an unhappy customer can tell hundreds if not thousands of people instantaneously. The result is a new type of customer who expects real-time response to concerns and complaints and is quick to turn to social media to get that response.

What does this mean for brands? A survey by NM Incite says that 47% of respondents have used social media to receive “active customer service.” That figure is 59% among 18-to-24-year-olds. Almost one in three users prefer using social media to calling a 1-800 number, says a recap of the survey at

‘Implications are enormous for brands’

“What we’re seeing is that customers are turning to social media channels for customer service, regardless of whether and where a particular brand is actually equipped to handle customer service over social media,” says Gadi BenMark, senior vice president of NM Incite’s Advisory division. “Today’s customers choose when and where they voice their questions, issues and complaints. They don’t care if a company is set up to answer customer questions on Facebook, or if it has an actual Twitter handle for customer service.”

“The implications are enormous for brands that are not implementing effective social care,” BanMark said. “There is also great upside for those that understand that the lines between marketing and customer service are blurring, and take action to organize, operate, and manage performance in this new merged world.”

Actor Patrick Stewart isn’t exactly in the prime social media demographic, but that’s where he went to vent about being kept waiting by a cable television provider. “All I wanted to do was set up a new account with @TWCable_NYC but 36hrs later I’ve lost the will to live,” he tweeted. Some 1,500 people retweeted Stewart, who eventually got a response from the cable company, at least on Twitter.

Among the survey’s other findings:

– More than 10% of respondents had used branded Twitter handles for product information

– Nearly one-third turned to branded social pages on Facebook to ask product questions

– 71% of those who had ‘positive customer service’ through social media recommend the brand

– 70% were likely to use social media for future questions or problems after getting a positive response.

‘Customers hold the reins’

Clearly, customers will use social media to deal with customer service issues whether or not a brand or company is ready to respond. Does that matter? You bet it does. Of those customers who use ‘social care,’ 71% are inclined to recommend a brand if the response to their customer service inquiry was favorable.  On the other hand, only 19% of those who do not receive a social care response will recommend a brand.  Companies and brands have to decide on which side of that coin they wish to be.

As the NM Incite report states, “Today, customers hold the reins. They are feeling more and more empowered to share their brand experiences and opinions online, stripping brands of the privilege of a one-sided conversation.” The report makes another noteworthy point, that, “Customers choose when and where they voice their questions, issues and complaints, blurring the line between Marketing and Customer Service.”

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