United States consumers are now turning increasingly to social networks in order to interact with brands. Consequently, companies need to ensure they are in a position to react to customer service-related issues and requests on all channels

US Consumers Increasingly Turning to Social Media for Customer Care

Stateside consumers are looking more and more to social networks as a channel for obtaining customer service, says a recent study by Nielsen-McKinsey & Co joint venture NM Incite. The 2012 State of Social Customer Service Report* reveals that half of all social media users have made use of these channels to put a question or make a complaint to a brand. Moreover, just under a third of those polled in the NM Incite survey say they prefer to use social media rather than the phone or other communication means for this purpose.  And while the survey was carried among social network users, who are of course well versed in the capabilities of these channels, the figures are nevertheless evidence of great expectations on the part of today’s consumers regarding what NM Incite calls ‘social care’.  And it also appears that customers do not bother to stick to the channels that a company has set up to handle such interactions but expect to be able to choose when and where to voice their issues. 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,” points out Gadi BenMark, Senior Vice President of NM Incite’s Advisory division.

Imperative to be on the networks

It has therefore become imperative for companies to create a strategy of seamless engagement across all brand-relevant channels.  The Report underlines that setting up ‘social care’ solutions – i.e. customer care via social networks – can have a ‘snowball effect’ on the company’s reputation.  When served satisfactorily, 70% of ‘social care’ users are likely to use that form of customer service again and 71% of those experiencing “great social care” are likely to recommend the brand directly, the findings indicate. And indirect recommendations can be just as important. “When you consider the span of friend and family networks who can view the positive or negative social care interactions, the effective reach of a well-executed response can be much bigger than you think,” stresses Gadi BenMark.

Preference for Facebook and Twitter

Unsurprisingly, Facebook and Twitter are the preferred social care channels. Consumers are more likely to comment on or ask a question about a company’s products or services on Facebook, 29% of those polled saying they would use the company page and 28% preferring their own personal page, followed by Twitter, where users would engage on their personal account (14% of those surveyed) or via the brand handle (13%). Nor is this trend confined by gender or restricted to one age-group: some 60% of the women and 57% of the men aged 18-24 and nearly 30% of the over-65s polled said they have used social networks for customer-relations purposes. Over half (51%) of the total sample group say they engage with companies via social channels once a month, while 10% report doing so as much as once a week.

* conducted in July 2012 among 2,000 US social media users over the age of 18.