Social customer service: the digital divide
Consumers are positively engaged and highly loyal to the brands they choose to follow and "like" on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and others. But according to the findings of the CMO Council's 'Variance in the Social Brand Experience' study, consumers also have high expectations that social brands will offer unique experiences, savings, promotions, and even games as part of their social engagement.
The research targeted both marketers and consumers, and challenges marketers to better understand cognitive, behavioural and attitudinal dynamics as they seek to integrate social media into their overall marketing mix.
The online study revealed that, while 52% of the 120+ marketers surveyed say their brands have enjoyed greater influence thanks to their presence in social networks, only 17% said that social media is fully meshed, aligned, and integrated into the overall marketing mix.
The study also found that consumers value their social brand engagements and are increasingly turning to peer communities for reviews, conversations, shopping selections, product assistance, and lifestyle advice. Furthermore, brands that provide exclusive savings, entertainment, and open engagements tend to be well-received and appreciated by consumers.
According to the 1,300+ consumers surveyed, there is an expectation that a brand 'Follow', 'Like', or even just a post about the brand on a social media network should enable the consumer to:
- Be eligible for exclusive offers (67%);
- Have the opportunity to interact with other customers who share a consumer's own experiences (60%);
- Gain access to games and contests (65%).
However, marketers believe that social engagement is more of a by-product of high quality content, and are less concerned with generating loyalty among social followers. According to marketers, customers 'Like' or engage with the brand because they:
- Want to be heard (41%);
- Are looking for news or information about products (40%);
- Are looking for incentives or rewards (33%);
- Are seeking special savings or experiences exclusive for followers (27%).
"The social brand explosion has created a wave of loyalty among social consumers who are eager to show their support and share their experiences with others online, but this loyalty comes at a cost - from savings to games - that consumers see as their social currency," said Liz Miller, vice president of marketing programmes for the CMO Council. "The social channel can garner significant influence and pull for marketers who can bridge this gap in expectations and execution."
Few consumers feel let down by their social brand experiences, as only 3% said that the engagements they make are "a total waste of time". Furthermore, 40% said they want and expect more from their favourite social brands. Consumers are also eager to turn to peer communities for support and believe that great support keeps them more loyal to brands. In fact, more consumers are intentionally going online to connect with other fans (25%) or to share positive experiences (32%).
But there is also a growing disquiet among consumers who are faced with delayed support responses from brands through social media.
Most consumers expect answers within 24 hours, and only 12% are willing to wait more than one day. While 22% of consumers want instant gratification, 19% are looking for answers within a matter of hours. Unfortunately, social service is not high on the list of priorities for marketers still looking to solidify their social strategy, as only 4% of marketers said they are using social media to provide faster and better customer care.
There is a clear digital divide between what marketers are doing and what consumers expect from brands, and brands that provide their social customers with engaging online experiences, meaningful interactions with each other, as well as rewards for doing so stand to benefit from a real competitive advantage.