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Anna Papachristos | May 16, 2012

The Social Education: Studying Social to Learn About Customers

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67521tmx3060efl1.jpgDuring childhood, we learn in a group atmosphere. Just as we learned to socialize while also developing necessary life skills, businesses must now cultivate their social skills in order to learn how to best serve their customers.

"We Are Social: The State of Social Customer Service," a survey conducted jointly by thinkJar and Sword Ciboodle, focuses on the levels of social adoption and engagement across industries. This report explores the responses from 400 practitioners in the social media space worldwide, examining what steps businesses have taken toward becoming socially involved with their customers and how they plan to proceed in the future.

Though the study offers a great deal of insight, here are some key findings:

• While 59 percent of organizations have adopted Twitter and 60 percent have adopted Facebook, nearly 85 percent of those who adopted one adopted both together.
• Organizational readiness, integration, and finding the proper balance between social services and traditional services remain the top challenges when adopting social.
• Over 90 percent of respondents believe social customer service integration is the right thing for both the customer and the business.
• The top five benefits of social customer service cited are: increased customer satisfaction; meeting customer expectations; intangible benefits; increased loyalty; and reduced cost of customer support.

Noted as the year of "understanding what social means for customer service," 2012 marks the first time in years that strategic customer relationship management outranked cost-savings as the top goal for customer service. Organizations can attribute this change to their newfound focus on customer retention over cost-savings because, as we all know, retaining current customers is cheaper and easier than customer acquisition efforts. Increasingly empowered customers are also driving this move toward improved relationship management as they seek to engage companies, receive service, and have their voices heard.

But as Mitch Lieberman, vice president of marketing strategy at Sword Ciboodle, noted about the results, the regional differences seen between the U.S. and the UK might be the most interesting part of the report. "Starting with the standard channels, specifically self-service, businesses in the UK are recognizing that their customers are not as interested in self-service as their U.S. counterparts," Lieberman said.

While the younger, urban population of the U.S. is more inclined to use self-service, UK customers prefer old-fashioned, face-to-face interaction. Additionally, Americans have integrated social as part of their everyday routines, increasing the demand for social customer service. However, businesses in the UK have yet to fully embrace social as an effective and necessary service channel.

But, just as news travels at the speed of light, Lieberman believes that the UK's adoption rates of social customer service will soon equal that of organizations in the U.S. "The U.S. is about six months further along, but the data suggests that the UK is catching up quickly," he said. "Considering the timeframes we are discussing, a follow-up survey so that we can analyze the trends seems like a good idea, and is something we are looking to do."

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