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BizReport : Social Marketing : May 18, 2012

18 million Brits turn to social media for customer service needs

Social media could one day oust call centers as the place for consumers to go to air their grievances towards a company, according to a new consumer survey by Fishburn Hedges and Echo Research.

by Helen Leggatt

Being stuck in a queue telephoning a call centre could soon become a thing of the past. More consumers are turning to social media to get answers to their questions, found research in the UK by Fishburn Hedges and Echo Research.

In the past eight months, the number of consumers using social media to 'talk' to companies has almost doubled from 19% to 36% in April 2012. In the UK, 18 million are already using social media for customer services purposes.

Of those who have interacted with a company via social media for their customer service needs, two-thirds (68%) say it allows them to find their voice and 65% say it's a better way to interact with companies than a call centre.

Eva Keogan, head of innovation at Fishburn Hedges, believes that while consumers using social media are currently getting the VIP treatment from companies on social media, as the numbers that do so increase the challenge will be to keep up the current levels of service.

The increase in use of social media to field complaints could generate a need for more staff specifically trained in such matters, Richard Dodd of the British Retail Consortium told the BBC.

"If you are actively engaging in social media you are setting up an expectation amongst customers that they will receive a response, so you have to be geared up to fulfill those expectations," he said.

Other findings from the survey include:

- Just 7% think call centers are better than social media;
- 40% believe social media will improve customer service;
- 49.5% of 18-24 year olds have dealt with a brand via social media compared with 27.4% of those aged 55+.

Tags: consumer insight, customer complaint, customer service, social media, trends

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