As social media usage becomes increasingly ubiquitous, affluent consumers are now using social media channels to share their personal customer service experiences and learn about others' experiences when making purchase decisions, according to a study from the Society for New Communications Research.
The study, entitled 'Exploring the link between customer care and brand reputation in the age of social media', examined the opinions and behaviour of some 300 active internet users, and found that 59.1% use social media to 'vent their feelings' about customer care experiences.
Among the study's other main findings:
- 72.2% of respondents said they at least sometimes research companies' customer care online before purchasing products and services;
- 84% said they consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company;
- 74% said they choose companies or brands based on others' customer care experiences that are shared online;
- 84% said they at least sometimes consider the quality of customer care in their decision to do business with a company;
- 81% believe that blogs, online rating systems, and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care;
- Less than one-third believe that businesses take customers' opinions seriously. Search engines were found to be the most valuable online tools for this kind of research, while tools rated as being "of no value" included micro-blogging sites (39%), YouTube (27%), and other social networking sites (22%).
Customer care leaders
Interestingly, Dell and Amazon were cited more often than any other companies when respondents were asked which companies have done the best job of using social media to respond to customer care issues. In terms of industry sectors, technology, retail, and travel companies were reported as doing the best job, while utilities, health care, and insurance were least likely to receive positive endorsements.
"This study suggests that there is a growing group of highly desirable consumers using social media to research companies: 25 - 55 years old, college educated, and earning US$100,000 or more per annum. These are a very powerful group in terms of buying behaviour," concluded Dr Ganim Nora Barnes, senior fellow for the Society for New Communications Research. "These savvy consumers will not support companies with poor customer care reputations, and they will talk about all of this openly with others via multiple online vehicles."