Social care, or customer service delivered via social media, is becoming an imperative for global brands as consumers feel more empowered to share their customer service experiences online.

Social Care – Why It Matters

A new report from NM Incite, the “2012 State of Social Customer Service Report,” indicates social care, defined as a system a company uses to regularly provide customer service through social media platforms, can have a highly positive impact on a company’s customer satisfaction levels. Data shows that 47% of social media users engage in social care, with this figure rising to 59% among the crucial 18-to-24 demographic. And one in three social media users (representing 80% of all online users) prefer to receive customer service via social media rather than phone.

More important than the growing popularity of social care, report data also shows that 71% of social care users who receive a quick, effective response are likely to recommend a brand, compared to 19% of those who do not get a response to a social care service inquiry. Furthermore, NM Incite research indicates one negative customer service experience posted in social media can negate the effect of five positive postings.

In one piece of data that is good news for those companies that do engage in effective social care, 36% of social care users report receiving quick, effective responses.

Facebook, Twitter Preferred Channels

Not surprisingly considering their general dominance of the consumer social media space, Facebook and Twitter are the preferred social care channels. A leading 29% of consumers are most likely to make a social care comment/question on a company’s Facebook page and 28% on their own Facebook page. Twitter follows with 14% of consumers most likely to perform a social care engagement via a corporate Twitter handle and 13% via their own Twitter handle.

5 Lessons for Social Media Customer Service

In a recent posting on the Salesforce blog, Jeffrey L. Cohen, Manager of Content Marketing for the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, recommended five social media customer service lessons from the “Big Three” automakers. Most importantly, Cohen said social media customer service is “not an option.” In addition, companies must put the right people in place, as “same people who respond by phone and email are not necessarily the right people for social media customer care.”

Along with the right people, companies need to invest in a properly configured social media monitoring tool that analyzes social care data to detect deeper patterns, as well as ensure collaboration among customer service and marketing teams.

Learning Opportunities

Finally, Cohen urges companies to recognize the ROI of social care. “Customers who interact using social media have been found to be more loyal customers, and this is where your advocates come from,” he writes. “Trained agents can identify and nurture advocates, which has great long term value. From a hard dollars perspective, when looking at starting a social media customer service team, do so by shifting resources or self-funding it to demonstrate the business value before requesting resources.” 

Social, Mobile Promote Proactive Customer Care

CMSWire recently interviewed John Hernandez, Vice President and General Manager of Collaborative Business Applications at Cisco Systems, who said the proliferation of smartphones and social media represents a great opportunity for customer care to become more proactive. Hernandez urged companies to “transition to a shared responsibility” in responding to social care inquiries to present a “single face to the customer.”

A potential use case of this kind of merged customer care in the age of mobile, Hernandez said, is lost luggage. For example: an airline customer, standing at baggage claim, doesn’t see his bag and contacts the airline via a contact link in a social media app on his mobile device. Social media, he said, is causing changes to customer care that are “much bigger than mobile.”

A consumer could be on, say, Facebook, and bad-mouthing a brand because of a product issue that they can’t get fixed -- like a lost luggage bag. In this case, Hernandez noted, customer care needs to be proactive, made possible by the numerous social media tools that are becoming standard in customer relationship management/customer service platforms.