Study: nearly half of U.S. consumers today actively seek customer service through social media

According to a new study from NM Incite, the leading social media consumer insights provider and joint venture between Nielsen and McKinsey, nearly half (47%) of U.S. social media users today actively seek customer service through social media (a.k.a., social care). Revealing new data about how customers perceive and engage in social care, NM Incite’s study uncovers that nearly one in three social media users (30%) 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 they engage with.

The 2012 NM Incite Social Care Survey, conducted through Nielsen’s online panel, polled thousands of U.S. social media users across ages and gender and found that 18-24 year olds are the highest users of social care, with 60% of females and 57% of males actively seeking customer service through social media channels. Even among the oldest social media users, age 65+, nearly one-third (30%) have used social care, confirming wide adoption spanning all age groups. Frequency is also high with 51% 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. “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. 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.”

Positive Experiences Equate to a Higher Rate of Customer Recommendations
NM Incite’s study indicates that positive social care experiences fuel further demand for effective social care. The data shows that seventy-one percent (71%) of those who experience great social care are likely to recommend a brand based on their most recent experience, compared to 17% of customers that have a negative experience. Additionally, seventy percent (70%) 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,” said BenMark. “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.” This has immediate implications for both heads of service, and CMOs. Nick Cerise, Head of Global Social Media and VP of Marketing at Western Union says, “If we don’t get social care right, we put all other marketing investments at risk.”

Customers Want Social Care on Facebook & Twitter
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 a company’s product or service on Facebook, both on the company’s page (29%) and on their personal page (28%), followed by the company’s blog (15%) and then by Twitter, both on a personal handle (14%) and a brand handle (13%).

For more detail and insight, download NM Incite’s State of Social Customer Service report.