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

March 31, 2012

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?

17 thoughts on “Do You Need Social Media for Customer Service? [Infographic]”

  1. Thanks for studying this infographic and breaking it down for us, Adam!

    About social media customer service and having a phone number clearly available: last night on another brand’s Facebook page, I saw a potential customer ask the brand for their services. The brand said they were sending a message “right away” to the potential customer. This morning, that same now-not-so-potential customer said they hadn’t heard back yet — 17 hours later! Ouch!

    I checked the brand’s “About,” and their phone number is nowhere to be found. Went to their website. Again, phone number nowhere to be found. (Although in their defense, contact forms are clearly marked on both their Facebook Page and their website.)

    We have our phone number — nice and BIG — in every sidebar on every page of our website, including the blog posts. It’s also the first thing you see when you click “About” on our Facebook Page. But now, after what I saw this morning, I’m going to go stick it in the company description that sits right below the profile picture on our Facebook Page, and I’ll slide it into our Twitter bio, too.

    The less clicking around a customer or potential customer has to do to contact us, the better. Every time. And with a phone call, even if the customer has to leave a voice mail, there’s no wondering, “Did they get my email/private message/Direct Message/contact form?”

    Thanks for the great advice!

    1. Great comment Michelle! For the actual web site, I think it is dependent on the type of company you are on how prominent it is — but is should be VERY easy to find. Consumer products should have it pasted big and bold on every page or if they are large enough for multiple numbers, to a page that spells out which number is for what service. Ever spent 20 minutes on hold with your bank or utility only to find out you were on the wrong 800 number!

      For something like Customers That Stick, I have it on the contact page which is clearly shown at the top of every page in the site. That is pretty well in line with my current goals and stage of development with the site.

      You make an interesting point about the outposts like Twitter and Facebook. The Twitter bio is pretty tight but the wallpaper is probably a great place for it. DO you think the About page is good enough for FB with the new timeline, or do most people not know to click there yet?

      1. We’ve always had our 800 number featured prominently on every page of our website, but in context with instructions for reaching us. There’s a link to our contact form right beneath the phone number. Interestingly, most folks contact us via the contact form, but I think seeing that phone number gives customers confidence in us, that we’re reachable. Maybe it’s me?

        Putting the phone number in the Twitter bio rather than the wallpaper makes sure even mobile and Hootsuite/Tweetdeck users will have access to you. But true — it is TIGHT! I had to rewrite our bio a bit to get the number in and keep the website URL there as well.

        And for Facebook, I don’t know if folks know to click “About.” I just like to make things as simple as possible, with as few clicks as necessary. If we can cut down on frustration levels in any way, especially when there’s a need of some sort (in this case, wanting to contact us), we’re creating a better customer experience all the way around.

        1. I agree with you on the confidence portion. I think particularly when you are a small business that is primarily getting leads online, that phone number is a badge that says “real business, real people.” There are a lot of sketchy sites out there — anything you can do to establish “real word” credibility is key. That’s why I have a physical address listed on our contact page; it says “real” at a glance.

          Great stuff, and thanks for all of the awesome insights Michelle!

  2. What’s up w/ the phone numbers; do you think the sites are so focused on making their site ‘just write’ in how it looks they just forget, or is it intentional for some reason.

    Yes, we all know social is here and the ‘potential’ impact it can have. But it’s not quite wielding the big stick yet that some preach. There are still way too many variables that affect the who, what, when & where’s.

    I do think it will keep evolving and I wonder what that looks like one yr from now; 5 yrs from now, etc.

    Your business is probably more at risk being called out socially for poor customer service, but it probably doesn’t have the impact some might think however….yet….

    1. I think with a number of companies the phone number is intentionally not promoted. Without naming names, I’ve been to a few sites where I looked so long for a number that all I could think was “they have gone out of their way to make this number hard to find.” It’s short-sighted most of the time — but not always.

      I completely agree with you that it will be a different landscape in 5 years. I don’t necessarily disagree with most of the “social is changing customer service” crowd — I just think they are overstating the penetration level in the present. It seems this one study at least supports that conclusion.

      1. I would agree with that. A number of businesses do NOT want you to call their number and want you to use other channels. And some, don’t even have a number you can call at all. But, if you go that route, you’d better be very responsive through those other channels.

        I read Francisco’s post last week. A nice follow-up, Adam!

  3. Social media shouldn’t replace traditional customer service channels, but you need to be prepared to respond no matter where your customers are. If that means social media then that’s where you need to be!

    1. I agree Joe. It’s really a matter of where your customers are — and it seems a lot are still on traditional channels.

      Thanks for stopping by!

  4. I love this analysis! Social is great but, as you state, it’s not the only way (or the preferred way) that customers always want to interact! It’s not a magic bullet, it’s just another way to provide great CS. If you MAKE a customer interact with you through one channel, and it’s not their preferred channel, you’re going to lose that customer.

  5. Pingback: Customers with Remotes in Their Hands

  6. Dear Adam, thanks for sharing your idea. I am providing 24 hours support for my e-commerce website. Right now I am providing one channel communication system that is email communication. I am planning to increase another interaction channel but confused which one is better for me either skype support or phone support! Would you kindly advise which one I should go for? Thanks in advance.

    1. Without knowing your business and customers, it’s hard to say. If you can survey your customers to find out how they prefer to interact, that is always best. I believe Skype actually has traditional phone numbers as part of its service, so you might be able to offer both easily. Best of luck Nahidul!

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