Australian businesses not on same social plain as consumers: report

Australian businesses and their consumers are on different communication plains when it comes to customer service, according to a new report from Fifth Quadrant.

The Emerging Consumer Channels: Social Media, Web Chat and Smartphone Apps study, which polled more than 400 consumers and 53 business executives nationally, found 31 of consumers use social media channels for customer service interaction. This is despite more than 70 per cent of Australian organisations now using social media as a customer service channel.

Facebook proved the number one choice for consumers engaging through social media, followed by online forums and YouTube. More than 70 per cent of consumers said they ‘rarely’ or ‘never’ turn to Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs for customer service purposes.

In contrast, 75 per cent of businesses rating Twitter as their preferred customer service channel. Thirty-three per cent of consumers said they plan to increase their use of social media for customer service in the next 12 months. Generation Y accounted for 46 per cent of all social media customer service queries in the last three months.

“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,” Fifth Quadrant head of research, Chris Kirby, said. “They also need to treat social networks as they would any other communications channel. This means developing realistic long-term resourcing plans.”

The report also found Web chat, not social media or smartphone apps, is the most used medium for customer service queries. According to Kirby, Web chat is perceived to have the highest suitability for general enquiries, technical issues, purchase or sales related questions, and complaints or service issues.

Almost a quarter of Australian organisations offer Web chat today but although the technology has been broadly available for some time, it is only within the last one or two years that the greatest number of implementations (40 per cent) has occurred.

The Fifth Quadrant report noted long-term resourcing of social media channels is likely to become a challenge for many organisations. Just under half of organisations are confident in their capability to scale up to support social media and two in five to support smartphone apps.

Three in five organisations however are confident in their capability to scale up to support changes in demand for customer service via Web chat. Kirby said a reason for this difference could be the way each of the channels are managed.

“Responsibility for managing and resourcing Web chat lies with the call or contact centre – a department well used to budgeting, planning for, and responding to fluctuating consumer communications,” he said. “In contrast, social media and smartphones are typically managed by marketing and insight, or IT.”

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