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September 30, 2008
Social media as customer service
Some stats from a recent survey conducted about Americans who use social media sites and their interaction with business:
- 60% interact with companies using social media
- 93% say a company should have a presence in social media
- 85% say a company should not only be present but also interact with its customers via social media
- 56% say they feel a stronger connection with and better served by companies when they can interact with them in a social media environment
- 43% say companies should use social networks to solve customers' problems
- 41% say companies should use social media to solicit feedback about products and services
(Source: 2008 Cone Business in Social Media Study, from an online survey conducted Sept. 11-12, 2008 by Opinion Research Corporation among 1,092 adults comprising 525 men and 567 women 18 years of age and older. Margin of error +/- 3%.)
Social media is the new customer service. When social media-driven customer service is combined with the work of citizen marketers, it becomes a force for more credible problem-solving (and less expensive customer service costs). With its inherent market research opportunities, social media has crossed over to the category of obvious strategy.
Update: Nathan tracks real-time examples of one company's social media-driven customer support in the U.K. travel industry. If anything, the example company's responses on Twitter and a travel blog help neutralize skepticism and lightly tinged anger. With the right combination of empathy and problem-resolution, a customer vigilante is sometimes just a few degrees away from turning into a customer evangelist.
Other blogs that reference Social media as customer service:
Social Media IS the new customer service! In fact we have tied it into our companies offerings as well. I am President of a Mystery Shopping firm. We are using social media monitoring as a "red flag" process and then sending in mystery shoppers to do audits for our clients. It is changing the way we do business.
My goal each day is to educate clients as to how important fantastic customer service is and how it can drastically increase their profits by creating word of mouth advertising. I agree with you that this is the very BEST marketing a company can do!
I agree that social media can be a great tool to enhance customer service. However, IMHO, more important than social media is a mission to serve your tribe of customers. It should be just as important to the CEO as is the bottom line.
PS I really enjoyed your book - Creating Customer Evangelists.
Ben, this is great new data. Thanks for sharing. It's always nice to back up what we all (already) believe with hard numbers.
This philosophy fuels what we are doing with Trustworthy. Social media response is not only the future of customer service, but will be a huge force in marketing as a whole in the very near future.
Great post Ben.
I'm a firm believer in the power of social media - but what do you do when a company has no social media visibility?
Right now, my friend Jeremy has an issue with a local BMW dealership where he's not getting any satisfaction and there are no other outlets so now he's calling on the local community - see: http://homeculinaire.blogspot.com/2008/10/my-land-rover-battle.html
Ed -- It's something of a chicken-and-egg problem, no? Must a company have a customer-centric focus so that social media-delivered customer service works, or can social media-driven customer service help a company to become more customer-centric?
Kirk -- Hope the numbers can help you (and anyone else) make the case for those reluctant marketing and operations managers to get on the ball. And we know there's a lot of them out there.
Mark -- It's tenaciousness that sets apart those who complain vs. those who make change happen.
I had found that report as well and included in Technorati's 2008 State of the Blogosphere. What caught my eye on your post, Ben is that Mark Krupiski must be running a crusade for his "friend". His comment on my post here is identical to the one he left here (well, at least he changed the name ;-).
http://tinyurl.com/3f4juz [see the comment]
However, he has not responded to my suggestions, which I also sent by email - is this how individuals recommend a conversation is carried out? [my answer is not by a long shot!]
Valeria -- Here's a question to ponder a la "Mark": when does a campaign cross the line into spammish behavior?
Interesting post. Companies without a social media strategy are definitely shooting themselves in the foot BUT we also have to be careful not to over-inflate the value and power of social media. I agree with Ed's sentiment.
What I have seen so far (and remember that I live in a fairly conservative business area) is that introducing social media to companies which don't already have a true customer-centric focus doesn't lead to these companies becoming customer-centric. These types of companies tend to block their employees' access to facebook, twitter and blogs. Chances are, they won't create a blog anytime soon. They simply haven't connected the dots yet: To them, social media is just a fad.
Companies with a true customer-centric focus (companies looking for ways to improve customer retention and acquisition rates, improve their brand equity and develop new communication channels with their market*) tend to be a lot more open to the potential value of social media tools.
* Sorry for the corporate-speak. I just finished a one-year stint with an acronym-happy corporation in the tech industry and have a hard time shaking off the lingo. (Remember "Office Space? Yeah. That.)
Should all companies a social media strategy: Yes.
Should all companies learn to leverage social media tools to enhance their customer relations: Yes.
Going as far as proclaiming that social media is the new customer service: Eh... I wouldn't go THAT far, Ben. ;)
Social media have opened up exciting new channel and opportunities, but you still need a 360 customer engagement strategy that involves live customer service reps, face-to-face events, good old websites, toll-free numbers, well-trained human touch points, well designed products, packaging and stores, incentive and reward programs, solid returns and warranty policies, etc.
Great post, as always. :)
A great post thanks. The whole area of Social Media in Customer Service is fascinating and clearly in it’s infancy. In my experience most of the challenge will be about the mind set of the people within the organization. This will starts off at the top. The challenge here is the senior team will not be into Social Media. I great idea I heard the other day was creating a “reverse mentor”. ie: the senior person having a younger mentor, that shows them how the whole area of Social media works.
Hi Ben, sorry to be late to the party here. The Cone survey just doesn't sit right with me, for several reasons.
1) When I asked for a copy of the survey and results (more than what Cone shared, but a normal request for these types of surveys, like McCann's for example), I was told that the results were for paying customers only. Really? The customers who you are telling that 93 percent of Americans believe a company should have a social media presence? (93% is about 204,732,031 Americans...that's a stretch considering only 220,141,969 have Internet access. I am sure that the Average Joe/Jane is not demanding social media of the brands the buy.)
2) When asked who did they survey, the response was "Opinion Research Corporation selected them from a pre-existing panel of respondents. We screened for prior usage of social media." (The Cone comment can be found on Deb Robison's blog at: http://tinyurl.com/5eer4d)
I think as social media practitioners, we need to be very careful about surveys that are so transparently self-serving. Yes, we all want all marketers and companies to embrace social media and it's benefits, but the fact is...it's slow going but we are getting there. Let's not hype it.
There are other surveys like the Universal McCann 'Power To The People-Wave 3 Report' (http://tinyurl.com/646zcz) and Synovate's (http://tinyurl.com/6fru5b) report on Social Networking that have numbers no where as high as Cone's & seem to be more realistic and in-line with where perceptions about social media truly are.
As for social media being the new customer service, totally agree.
Yes, Social Media has a place in this world. It has a place for those wishing to sell a product or service but only when used in the correct way. We need to make sure we listen to our customers and present our message to them in an honest and forthright manner.
All too often social marketing is used to "trap" someone into watching or reading a sales pitch under the guise of something totally different. There are also products out ther that tell you to use Social Marketing and Media solely to let people know you have a product to sell.
Adevertising and e-mail have invaded our lives to the point where good and honest products dont get the exposure they need because of those who abuse the system. I fear socail media may fall prey to the same fate.
The thing is that even if you use social media you still need a technology friendly way to deal with customers one at a time (like IM) , unless of course, you want one unhappy (or unreasonable) person to sour the whole of the community. It can happen much easier than you think.
Beth is right you have to be very careful to be genuine when you deal with customers online. There is an over abundance of people doing it wrong. That being said, people respect companies who take the time to do it right!
Ben good post! Yes I agree social media is part of the new customer service. Sometimes we get so focused on marketing, branding and messaging that we lose sight of the fact that customers simply want answers to their questions in a simple, personable way.
I'll agree that social media varies within the organization and should be a tool used by the CEO down.
What a great article. We think we understand the need for brands to use Social Media, but your statistics prove the case for me. Thanks for a great article (and now following you on twitter!)