Dissatisfied US consumers turn to social media for service - study

8th May 2012

The majority of American consumers claim brands are failing to meet their expectations with many turning to social media to wield greater influence, according to new research.

The 2012 American Express Global Customer Service Barometer conducted by American Express revealed that a staggering 93% of consumers are unsatisfied with the level of customer service provided with 55% claiming to have walked away from a purchase because of a poor customer experience.

The most popular forms of communicating with a brand still remains speaking to a representative, either via a phone or face-to-face, or through the company website or email, said the study. However, social customer service is on the rise with 17% of consumers admitting to have used social media at least once over the past year to obtain a customer service response. Additionally, this relatively small group of consumers is extremely engaged and vocal, said the report.

Jim Bush from American Express said: “Delivering outstanding service creates impassioned advocates and can serve as a powerful marketing weapon for companies. For example, consumers who have used social media for service in the last year are willing to pay a 21% premium at companies that provide great service.  They also tell three times as many people about positive service experiences compared to the general population.  Ultimately, getting service right with these social media savvy consumers can help a business grow.”

Those using social media are more willing to spend more with companies who deliver good service (21%), compared to the general population (13%) and those who have never used social media for customer service (11%), according to the figures.

Seeking a response from a company is the main reason customers use social media for customer service (50%), followed praising a company for a great service experience (48%), sharing information about your service experience with a wider audience (47%), venting frustration about a poor service experience (46%) and asking other users how to have better service experiences (43%).

Consumers still have negative views on a brand’s customer efforts with 61% claiming businesses have not increased their focus on providing better customer service and 32% believe businesses are paying less attention to providing good customer service, an increase from last year’s report (26%).

But in contrast to the general consumer group, 60% of social media users believe brands are improving their customer service.

Bush added: “Companies must keep their eyes on the prize when it comes to customer service. Outstanding service means exceeding customers’ expectations as you seek to meet their needs.  Companies that do this consistently understand that exceptional service is a real competitive advantage.”

The extensive report which surveyed over 1,000 US adults also revealed that rudeness was the biggest customer service gripe (33%) followed by passing the buck (26%), waiting too long to have an issue resolved (10%) and being boomeranged (10%). 

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