According to a new study from NM Incite, a social media consumer insights provider and joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey, nearly half (47 percent) of U.S. social media users today actively seek customer service through social media.
NM Incite's study found that nearly one in three social media users (30 percent) prefer to reach out to a brand for customer service through a social channel compared to the phone, marking a dramatic shift in how people expect customer service from the brands with which they engage.
The 2012 NM Incite Social Care Survey, conducted through Nielsen's online panel, polled thousands of U.S. social media users across ages and genders and found that 18-24 year olds are the highest users of social care, with 60 percent of females and 57 percent of males actively seeking customer service through social media channels. Even among the oldest social media users, age 65+, nearly one-third (30 percent) have used social care, confirming wide adoption spanning all age groups.
Frequency is also high, with 51 percent of social media users engaging in social care more than once a month, and nearly one in 10 of those individuals using social media for customer service on a daily basis.
"What we're seeing is that customers are turning to social media channels for customer service, regardless of whether and where a particular brand is actually equipped to handle customer service over social media," said Gadi BenMark, senior vice president of NM Incite's Advisory division, in a statement. "Today's customers choose when and where they voice their questions, issues, and complaints. 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."
The implications are enormous for brands that are not implementing effective social care, BenMark warns. "There is also great upside for those that understand that the lines between marketing and customer service are blurring and take action to organize, operate, and manage performance in this new merged world," he said.
NM Incite's study indicates that positive social care experiences fuel further demand for effective social care. The data shows that 71 percent of those who experience great social care are likely to recommend a brand based on their most recent experience, compared to 17 percent of customers that have a negative experience. Additionally, 70 percent of social care users are likely to use social care again if served satisfactorily.
"The data is compelling and tells us that effective social care can give brands a big advantage," BenMark said. "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."
According to NM Incite's survey, Facebook and Twitter are the preferred social care channels. The data shows that, among social media users, consumers are most likely to comment on or ask a question about company products or services on Facebook, both on the companies' pages (29 percent) and on their personal pages (28 percent), followed by the companiess blogs (15 percent) and then by Twitter, both on personal handles (14 percent) and brand handles (13 percent).