Study: Social Customer Service NOT the Answer to Consumer Satisfaction


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A new US study by Parature (recently acquired by Microsoft) found social media not a significant factor in customer service satisfaction. The phone is still the preferred service channel by a wide margin — selected by 43% of respondents. Email (22%) and live chat (18%) were ranked much lower, and just 2% said they preferred social media over other channels.

It is stunning to see that, despite two decades of pushing self-service, people still want to use the phone or other human-powered channels.

But that’s not new news. Every study I’ve seen in the past few years continues to show that people still like to connect with people. We can debate whether it’s because old habits die hard or due to poorly designed self-service, but there’s no disputing that customers are voting for the human touch every time they pick up the phone.

As you can see from the chart, when a fast response is needed, the phone is even more likely to be used (57%) followed by live chat (24%). Social drops to 1%.

RIP, Social Customer Service?

So should companies get rid of social media as a service channel? Hardly. Social media is an escape valve for customers not getting satisfaction on other channels. Whether you decide to support social customer service or not, a small percentage of customers venting about a problem on Twitter, blogs, etc. can have huge negative impact.

I’ve used Twitter a few times to get help, with mostly positive results. One time I used Twitter to get help on a DSL problem, because the self-service channel was too confusing. If the web site had been easier to use and I had confidence the DSL supplier would pay attention, I wouldn’t have used social media to initiate a service request.

While it true that 35% of consumers say they had used social media to complain, the Parature study also found some upside:

  1. 52% of respondents said they had used social media in a positive way
  2. 59% said a company had responded to their social interaction
  3. 51% said social media responses gave them a more favorable view of the company.

Back to Fundamentals: What Do Consumers Want?

I think the most critical finding from the study is that two-thirds of consumers said the most important aspect of a service experience was getting their issue resolved quickly (41%) or on a single interaction (26%). And they will use any channel that they believe will fulfill these needs.

So my advice is to forget about any plans to get rid of your call center. Customers will continue to call, chat and email for a variety of reason, some not under your direct control. That said, brands should continue work on making self-service the preferred channel. Many consumers (myself included) would use self-service if they had more positive experiences.

The full report can be downloaded downloaded here (free registration required).


  1. Good read! I’m curious what the age range of the respondents looked like. I believe this but the number of those who prefer the phone does surprise me. Being that speed is the most important factor, I wonder if it stands to reason that people feel that is the most likely to resolve things faster and whether they’re right about that assumption. Interesting! Thanks for sharing!

  2. According to the report, respondents were:
    27% 18-29 years old
    27% 30-39
    20% 40-49
    15% 50-59
    10% 60+


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