Gartner Predicts Social Media Will Be a Support Tool Among 40 Percent of the Top 1,000 Companies

May 18, 2011

By now, most companies have gotten the memo about brand management via social media. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, you know the drill. As corporate social media strategy matures, what’s on the horizon?

It’s customer service.

“In 2010, only 5 percent of organizations took advantage of social/collaborative customer action to improve service processes; however, customer demand and heightened business awareness is making this a top issue among customer service managers,” says Gartner’s research VP Drew Kraus. “At current trajectories, within five years we expect that community peer-to-peer support projects will supplement or replace Tier 1 contact center support in more than 40 percent of top 1,000 companies with a contact center.”

The report notes that companies are being pushed along this path by clever customers, who find that communicating their customer service needs on Twitter often brings a faster and more satisfactory response than dialing up a 1-800 number.

Gartner estimates that in the next two years, 30 percent of leading companies will extend the goals of their online community activities to customer service and social CRM.

“More and more companies are moving towards using social media as a customer service platform because it provides one more way for them to connect with their communities,” says Stacey Acevero, social media community manager at PRWeb. “In addition to improving their services, it gives them an extra platform to share information and obtain new clients through leads. I believe customer service through social media will endure because the world is increasingly online…we’re accessing social networks at a rapid rate and because we are so busy and on the go, maybe we don’t have the time to pick up the phone and sit on hold for 15 minutes while we wait for customer service—we’d rather send a tweet and get service on our own time.”

One indication that enterprise companies are already adopting Social CRM came with Saleforce.com’s recent announcement that the newest version of its service cloud platform will offer social media integration capabilities.

“Leveraging built-in social analytics, agents will be able to prioritize interactions across any channel and tailor support strategies to meet changing sentiments on the social web,” Salesforce said in a statement. So is social the future of customer service not just for startups and tech companies, but also for the enterprise?

“The simple answer is social networks like Facebook and Twitter are becoming mainstream and consumers are increasingly spending more time on them. Brands must use these channels to answer customers’ questions, issues and problems – increasingly, consumers expect it,” says Reggie Bradford, CEO of social media publishing software company Vitrue. “We’ve always believed social and CRM should be closely intertwined.

Social networks are incredibly efficient and effective customer relations tools. The instantaneous and openness of social makes it a really great CRM channel. Consumers are on social networks and expect brands to communicate with them where they are spending their time.

Read more about how your company can offer multi-channel support here and about how your company can build a support strategy using Twitter here
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