Social Media Reality Check: Are Customer Service Execs Wasting Their Time and Money? New Data on Consumer Behaviour Shatters the Hype about Twitter and Facebook

Article excerpt

As businesses madly clamor to engage with customers in social media channels, Gartner predicts the worldwide spend on social CRM offerings will balloon to more than $1 Billion by the end of 2012. Clearly, the Social CRM bandwagon is now completely full. But what does this mean for the customer service executive? Does the hype and focus placed on social media translate into real business value? Are consumers really clamoring to have their questions answered on social media channels?

A sober investigation into the facts indicates otherwise. The data would suggest that we now know what consumers are using social media for, and for the most part, it's not for asking customer service questions.

THE PURPOSE OF SOCIAL MEDIA BECOMES CLEAR.

The data tells us that social media channels are not the first place customers go when they want their questions answered. In fact, social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook are a distant third-choice behind website and mobile channels.

When your customers are online and they have a questions and need answers they go to your website. Granted, they may then engage in a community forum of like minded customers when they arrive, but they invariably do not begin their customer service journey on a 3rd party social destination like Facebook.

THE NEW DATA THAT PUTS IT ALL INTO PERSPECTIVE.

Research from ExactTarget shows that less than 1% of customers choose to use Twitter as their first stop in problem resolution. Commenting on his blog, social media strategist and author Jay Baer says, "In almost every case, the people complaining on Twitter are doing so because your company already failed to satisfy them in one or more traditional customer service channels."

When it comes to getting answers to their questions, customers overwhelmingly prefer to take their question to the company website versus social media. In short, the reality of what's happening is exactly opposite to the hype.

CONSUMERS OVERWHELMINGLY PREFER WEBSITES FOR ASKING QUESTIONS.

During the month of September 2011, IntelliResponse measured more than one million customer service questions originating on the customer-facing web sites of a number of organizations. The industry verticals represented in the sample include financial services, communications, utilities and retail. The chart below compares the number of questions asked by customers on each corporation's web site to the number of questions asked of each company via social media.

HOW WAS THE DATA COLLECTED?

This data was collected from each company's customer-facing website using the IntelliResponse Answer Suite tool--a web self-service technology that lets customers ask any question in natural language. Customers key their questions into a branded question box on the corporate web site and the one right answer is instantly provided. …