More than two-thirds (70 per cent) of Australian businesses are using a social media platform to deliver customer service, according to a study by consultancy and research firm, Fifth Quadrant.
The findings were presented in its latest report, "Emerging consumer channels: social media, Web chat and smartphone apps," which explores the evolution of social media, Web chat and smartphone apps as customer service channels.
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However, while seven in ten businesses offer social media as a customer service channel, consumers are slow to adopt it for these purposes -- only 31 per cent have used the channel for a customer service interaction within the past three months, the study found.
Fifth Quadrant head of research, Chris Kirby, said the disconnect between consumer use and business expectations is, in part, because the two groups are looking for each other in all the wrong places.
Facebook is the Australian consumers' number one choice for customer service engagement, followed by online forums and communities, and YouTube. Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs were the least popular options, with more than seven in ten consumers stating they "rarely" or "never" turn to them for customer service purposes.
Conversely, the leading network among businesses is Twitter, used by more than three-quarters of organisations. Company blogs, websites and online communities tie in second place followed by Facebook.
"Simply creating a new service channel then standing back and waiting for the customers to come won't work. If organisations want to offer customer service through social media, they need to go to the networks that their customers use.
"They also need to treat social networks as they would any other communications channel. This means developing realistic long-term resourcing plans," Kirby claimed.
Some of the other findings from the study include:
- The highest user of social media for customer service is Generation Y, which accounted for 46 per cent of all social media customer service queries within the last three months. Following close was Generation X, at 39 per cent; Baby Boomers, at 24 per cent; and the Silent Generation (those born between 1925 and 1942) at 16 per cent.
- Almost one in three consumers said they use social media "often" when seeking customer service, and 33 per cent plan to increase their use of it in the next 12 months.
- The main factors holding consumers back from using social media for customer service include the perception that the channel lacks personal interaction and concerns over security.
- In the long-term, resourcing is likely to become a challenge for many Australian organisations -- more than half indicated a low level of preparedness in effectively supporting the social media channel given future demand.
- Among businesses that currently offer social media as a service channel, almost two thirds have been using it for the past two years, while one in seven adopted it in the last 12 months.