The Nielsen Social Media Report and What It Means to Customer Service

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It’s fun to look at annual studies and marvel at the stats, because the speed of social media has gone from zero to off the scale and has stayed that way. The gas pedal is all the way to the floor.

That’s clearly the conclusion you can draw from reading Nielsen’s State of the Media: The Social Media Report Q3 2011. There are some impressive stats in the report, and a few of them are particularly interesting for social enterprises looking to gain an edge over the competition. For example, these facts bear closer scrutiny:

  • 80% of American internet users are on the internet and spend about one quarter of that online time on social networks and blogs. Possibly as a result of this, social networks and blogs increasingly influence buying decisions.
  • Social network users are 12% more likely to shop online than the average internet user, and half of them are following brands.
  • Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through mobile devices–and 2x as many of them as last year are visiting social networking sites. Social networking apps are up 30% from the same time last year.

What conclusions can we draw from these insights, particularly when we look at them in the aggregate? They seem to align with a few of our team’s favorite megatrends:

1, Companies need to standardize support across multiple channels.

The debate about whether to support customers on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook would seem to be over, at least for companies selling their products on the Internet. Being present everywhere your customers spend time is going to pay off. This kind of pervasive customer service and engagement is disruptive. Companies that concentrate on removing friction and barriers to the customer experience at every touchpoint can turn customer service and support into a competitive advantage.

One of our customers created a vocal evangelist just by paying for a tailor to replace a unique button. Where did the complaint come in? Twitter. Where did the praise go out? The customer’s popular blog. An evangelist is born, all because support via Twitter was offered.

2. Companies need to invest in the new customer service employee, because they are worth their weight in gold.

It’s increasingly important to find and care for the right people to provide today’s amplified service on all these channels, and find ways to elevate their role. This new agent envisions a career path in customer service and support. These college-educated, multi-taskers will contribute to moving customer service from a cost center to a business driver. Remember, like a doctor’s receptionist (and we all know how damaging or helpful these employees can be!) a support agent is the human interface with your brand, so it’s a powerful position. The customer service agent is still undervalued and underpaid. This must change.

3. Social networks are ideal ways to get close to customers–and it really works.

The new trendy word is this: co-creation. One of my favorite Assistly customers is Diamond Candles. Diamond (a piece of jewelry–a ring–comes in every one of their candles!) is absolutely committed to the social model for their business. In fact, they’re up for this year’s SPIKE Awards, to be announced on October 18. The SPIKE Awards recognizes the “best uses of social strategies, processes and supporting technologies to improve innovation, product development and product management.”

Instead of relying on traditional market research and trend analysis, Diamond Candles has developed a way to crowdsource idea submission and ask their existing fans and customers for future scents to develop and bring to market. Fans and customers can propose ideas for scents and vote on the suggestions submitted by their peers. Diamond Candles takes the top 10% of voter suggestions and cross-reference with market trend analysis to make final decisions on new scents.

The result? Since launching their new crowdsourcing tool about a month ago, Diamond Candles has received over 5,000 votes on user-generated scent suggestions and 250+ new scent suggestions from their existing customers and fan base. This has provided the company with actionable and real-time information to guide their product development.

At Diamond Candles, co-creation and advocacy are paying off. (If you want to see what all the excitement is about, check out their Facebook page.

4. Encourage self service (and build your knowledge base) so customers have a choice about how they get their information.

People are more comfortable with technology in general and mobile devices in particular–even the over-55 population, as Neilsen reports. It makes sense to maintain a useful support center to satisfy customers who want to find their own answers. This decreases service requests. We hear from our own customers just how much difference this can make. Andrew Gazdecki of Bizness Apps said this about his well-utilized Help Center: “Before Assistly we had 100+ cases a day. Now, we only have 10-20 because our customers are helping themselves. An 80% reduction in cases!”

Communities, too, will begin to have a stronger impact on knowledge management. The wisdom that emerges from community discussions will need to be incorporated into knowledge bases and used to unearth the issues that affect customer experience.

If there’s any lingering doubt about the progress and power of social media, there’s one fact that should be persuasive: Facebook today is as big as of the entire internet as of 2004.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Alyson Stone
Alyson Stone is Content Director for Pipeliner CRM, a sales pipeline management tool built by salespeople for salespeople.

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