Do You Need Social Media for Customer Service? [Infographic]

I recently came across a post on social customer service on Francisco Rosales’ excellent SocialMouths blog that contained some interesting data. Francisco posted an infographic from Our Social Times, a blog dedicated to social media marketing news and events, based on data from The Social Media Customer Service Report conducted by TNS.

Francisco had some great, realistic takeaways in his post. However, I have visited a number of sites that have talked about the data, and one of the most interesting facets of the discussion has been what people seem to have taken from the study, which is to say some good lessons with a good bit of hype sprinkled on top. From the Sitel site:

“Social media is dramatically altering the customer service landscape. With easy access to real-time information, a new generation of ‘always-on’ consumers is more empowered and demanding than ever. This trend is on the rise as social media proliferates, both online and on mobile, across all age groups and demographics,” said Lawrence Fenley, Sitel managing director for UK and Ireland.

“To build trust and brand loyalty in this rapidly changing environment, companies must develop a social media customer service strategy that is responsive, proactive and engaging in order to address customers’ needs.”

If you are a regular reader here, you probably know my feelings on social customer service. Yes, it is important and growing more important each month, but the “revolution” is premature. Most customer service still happens via other channels.

Is Social Media for Customer Service Really Necessary?

Short answer: Yes! As you can see from the infographic below, social is growing, and particularly (and not surprisingly) with younger consumers. However, even younger consumers are not flocking to social to solve their customer service problems. Traditional channels are still key. Jump to the bottom of the post for some less obvious takeaways from the data.

Social Media for Customer Service from Our Social Times

A quick note: As a U.S. based blog, it is important to mention that this study was done in the U.K. I would expect fairly similar data from a U.S. based survey, but that is, of course, conjecture.

So, what are the hidden gems in the data? What else can we learn besides the obvious your company should be on social, be listening, and be responsive.

  • Content rocks… The first graphic shows that 11% turn to a tutorial or demonstration on a blog and 25% turn to a video tutorial. Yes, in many cases, you have the potential to handle 1/3 of your customers questions and problems by having killer educational content about your product or service. There is so much talk about content marketing nowadays, perhaps it is time for a discussion of content customer service. And the most important part: content is cheap, or at least, much cheaper than support staff.
  • The social generation isn’t… When it comes to customer service. The data says 15% of 16-24 year olds prefer to interact with customer service via social over other methods. That means 85% prefer something else besides social media for customer service.
  • Online rules… It is important to note the difference between “social” and “digital.” While the effect of social media on customer service (in the present) is generally overstated, the importance of all online platforms is hard to overstate. When you combine video, forums, social, question sites, and company FAQ’s, you are now covering a majority of consumers who are turning online first — if for nothing else, just to find a phone number.

And on that topic, I will close with a note to all companies: For the love of all that is holy, make your phone number easy to find!

 What do you think? Has the hype about social customer service outpaced the current reality? What else do you take from the data?


By Adam Toporek. Adam Toporek is an internationally recognized customer service expert, keynote speaker, and workshop leader. He is the author of Be Your Customer's Hero: Real-World Tips & Techniques for the Service Front Lines (2015), as well as the founder of the popular Customers That Stick® blog and co-host of the Crack the Customer Code podcast.

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