More and more, when a consumer has a problem they are turning to the internet and looking for answers in the avenues of social customer service. If you haven't heard of social customer service, just think back to the last time you had a problem with iTunes or couldn't figure out how to create a filter for your Gmail and, instead of pouring through FAQs and help files, you instead just posted to Facebook or Twitter to ask other people.
That type of resolution would be considered social customer service.
This trend of relying on social media is predictably attributable to the increasingly internet-dependent youth, but the shift away from the traditional modes of customer service isn't limited to that group only. In fact, nearly 1 in 5 adults 45-to-54 years old asked about a problem on a Q&A site and over 1 in 4 adults 35-to-44 year-olds said they've watched a video tutorial on Youtube or a company website.
Honestly, who can blame anybody for turning to the internet as the first-response method to solving a customer service problem? Nobody wants to dig through an owner's manual, locate a corporate hotline, and then go through a vexing menu of automated recordings only to finally talk to a living-and-breathing customer service rep just to be put on hold. Resorting to the internet's brand of semi-self-help social customer service is usually a faster and likely easier way to locate a good answer since some of the people you'd be asking are those who have experienced the very problem you're looking to solve.
Or, if you can't solve the problem, of course the internet is the best basket available to slam your complaints into. 20% admitted to using the internet to vent, and that number went up to 36% when limited to those under 25 years old.
Social customer service isn't necessarily replacing traditional means of customer service, though; more, it's an additional channel to help consumers remedy an issue. To illustrate the shift in customer service, Our Social Times put together an infographic using recent consumer data that point to evolving habits of of the 2012 consumer.
To see a larger version of the above infographic, click here.