Social Media Heightens Customer Service Opportunities, Risks

amex-social-media-customer-service-may2012.pngConsumers who have used social media for customer service are more engaged and vocal in speaking about their experiences than the general population, says American Express in May 2012 survey results. This can play to companies’ benefits, but also to their detriment. For example, while these consumers are willing to spend 21% more for excellent service, compared to 13% more for the general population, they are also far more likely to say that they have not completed an intended purchase because of a poor customer service experience in the past year (83% vs. 55%). And while they will tell more people about a good experience than the general population (42 vs. 15), they will also spread the word at a far greater rate about bad experiences (53 vs. 24).

Consumers who have used social media for customer service made up 17% of the total respondents to the survey. According to a May 2012 survey from Sword Ciboodle, 60% of customer service practitioners support Facebook as a social service channel, and 59% support Twitter. Roughly 9 in 10 respondents to that survey believe that providing customer service over social channels is a good thing for their customers and for their organization.

1 in 2 Looking for Actual Response

Data from the “2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer” indicates that among consumers who have used social media for customer service, the most common reason for doing so was to seek an actual response from a company about a service issue (50%). Other popular reasons included praising a company for a great service experience (48%), sharing information about service experiences with a wider audience (47%), venting frustration about a poor service experience (46%), and asking other users how to have better service experiences (46%).

60% of the group said that companies have improved their response times through social media over the past year. According to a November 2011 white paper from Conversocial which studied the response times of the 10 most loved and hated brands on social media during 5 days in September, most responded to inquiries on their Facebook page within 1 to 4 hours, but none averaged under an hour.

Rudeness is the Most Common Gripe

The American Express survey also finds that 35% of respondents overall (not just social media users) have lost their temper with a service professional in the past year. When these respondents were asked about the irritants most likely to lead them to switch brands this year, one-third cited rudeness, while 26% said being shuffled around with no resolution, and 1 in 10 each cited waiting too long and being forced to continually follow up on an issue.

Other Findings:

  • 93% of respondents said that companies fail to exceed their customer service expectations.
  • 61% of respondents feel that companies have not increased their focus on providing better service. Of these, roughly one-third believe that businesses are paying less attention to providing good service.
  • The average American is willing to wait 13 minutes on hold for customer service, and 12 minutes for in-person help at establishments such as banks, retail stores, or restaurants.

About the Data: The American Express data is based on a survey of 1,000 US consumers aged 18 and over. Interviewing was conducted by Echo Research between February 22 and February 29, 2012.

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