Social Customer Service: How Far Have We Come?

Social media has become a ubiquitous channel to engage customers. However, many organizations still struggle with how to properly use it. To gauge organizational maturity in this area, Aberdeen recently published its state of the market Social Customer Care study. The results were eye-opening. As illustrated in the figure below, companies understand the importance of social media as a customer interaction channel. They are increasingly incorporating it within their customer interaction channel-mix.

This is the era of the empowered customer. One of the top factors that gave rise to customer empowerment is growing consumer use and adoption of social media platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. With 81 percent of businesses using social media within customer experience management (CEM) programs, it's reasonable to indicate that social media has become a ubiquitous channel to serve clients.

When we observe the adoption of social customer care programs, it's also important to clearly define these programs, as many organizations use social media, and different companies might have different definitions of what constitutes a social customer care program. For the purposes of Aberdeen's research, the term was used to define companies using social media portals such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to monitor and respond to customer requests and provide general updates, such as product announcements and service outages. Online communities (both third-party and company-owned) as well as messaging functions available through social media portals (e.g. Facebook Messenger or direct messaging on Twitter) were also considered as part of these programs.

Why are businesses increasing their adoption of social media at such a steady pace? That's because companies using social media achieve far superior financial results compared to those that don't. Companies using social media to deliver support enjoy an 81 percent greater annual increase in revenue from customer referrals and an 11.2 times greater annual improvement in return on marketing investments compared to non-users. It's important to note that simply adding social media within the channel mix doesn't guarantee superior results. In fact, when executed poorly, using social media can do more damage to company results than not using it at all.

Read Aberdeen's report on the topic to learn how best-in-class firms lay the right foundation to maximize their success in social customer service.

Omer Minkara is vice president and principal analyst covering contact cente and customer experience management at Aberdeen Group.