Although social platforms are still a long way from replacing traditional call centers, a new study from Sitel provides statistics supporting what I wrote about a year ago: Social media is becoming increasingly important for customer service initiatives.
Sitel, a customer care outsourcing company in the UK, asked 1000 people between the ages of 16 and 64 about their customer service preferences. The results of the survey indicate that more and more consumers (especially younger ones) expect be able to find answers to questions or resolutions to complaints online.
Among the key findings in this study:
- 57 percent of respondents, regardless of age, said that the first thing they do when they encounter a problem with a product is look online for a solution. This percentage increased significantly in the 16-24 (71 percent) and 25-34 (65 percent) age groups.
- Those surveyed employ a variety of online tools to find answers to their questions or obtain resolution to their issues. A third of the respondents said that they have used online forums or chat rooms, a quarter had viewed video tutorials, and just less than 20 percent had posted a query on a question website such as Yahoo Answers.
- 15 percent of the under-25 demographic stated that they would prefer to interact with a company via social media over any other form of communication. Only 7 percent of the 25-34 year olds and 3 percent of the 35-44 year olds felt the same way.
- While more than 80 percent of consumers over age 55 claimed that the most important online service a company could provide would be to “make contact (phone) numbers easier to find,” only about 50 percent of the youngest group surveyed were in agreement with that statement. The other half of 16-24 year olds indicated that they would prefer video tutorials, which seems to indicate that young people do not necessarily find contacting a company by telephone particularly convenient.
“With easy access to real-time information, a new generation of ‘always-on’ consumers is more empowered and demanding than ever,” concluded Sitel managing director Lawrence Fenley. “To build trust and brand loyalty in this rapidly changing environment, companies must develop a social media customer service strategy that is responsive, proactive and engaging in order to address customers’ needs.”
I agree. As today’s consumers become increasingly empowered with sophisticated mobile devices and access to real-time information, it’s clear more and more people will turn to the web for their customer service needs.