The Stats Speak for Themselves (cont’d): A Look at Some Critical Customer Service Statistics


To say social media has taken over our lives, and our world, would be to state the obvious. It is a total takeover. According to a special report titled ‘Global Digital Report 2018’ released by global digital marketing agency We Are Social: “The number of Internet users worldwide in 2018 is 4.021 billion – up 7 percent year-on-year. The number of social media users worldwide in 2018 is 3.196 billion, up 13 percent year-on-year”.

Evidently, more people are getting onto the Internet, but there are more and more people getting onto social media. Also, it is clear social media usage is accounting for approximately 79.48% of total Internet usage—that is 8 in every 10 users.

We just cannot deny the power of this global communication sensation of our day. We are basically living out our lives on social media. And of all the social media platforms available to us, Facebook is by far the most patronised. The power of Facebook is something that will forever be a wonder to all.

However, while we stand in awe of Mark Zuckerberg and his social media juggernaut, we cannot lose sight of the 140-character phenomenon called Twitter. The sheer number of monthly active users means that the Twitterverse is definitely not a joke. As at the second quarter of 2018, that figure stands at 335 million—more than the entire population of the United States of America.

When the president of arguably the world’s most powerful nation makes policy statements via Twitter, you should not take the platform for granted. When heads of global conglomerates are fired and the news breaks on Twitter, you should know that this platform must be taken seriously.

The beauty of all of these exciting social media platforms is that they are, in reality, owned by us—the customers. According to a report by Twitter in 2017, customer service interactions over the platform increased 250% from the previous two years. Nothing says power to the customer like social media. Nothing says the customer controls the business-customer conversation like a single post lambasting an organisation for some poor customer service. Twitter, like all social media platforms, gives customers the opportunity—and unbridled access—to be free.

The days when organisations initiated and controlled the conversation are long gone. Today’s Twitter-happy customer does not wait for the organisation. He or she will say what has to be said, when it has to be said, without mincing words. That’s what social media brings to the table – and customers are gobbling it up.

Any organisation with an aversion to tweeting and all other modes of social media communications should be worried as they read these facts. When it comes to social media sites such as Twitter, it pays to be where the action is. Companies that have no Twitter accounts or are not active on Twitter are really missing out.

Twitter, like most social media platforms, affords customers the opportunity to say whatever they want about a product, service or brand they have encountered. Customers can either offer glowing reviews or they can voice out their frustrations about an encounter. The one advantage of social media platforms like Twitter is that customers can get an instant response from a business.

However, there are a number of statistics specifically about Twitter use for customer service that should get every company excited. In 2015, Twitter designed a research study in partnership with Massachusetts-based leading-edge market research and consulting firm Applied Marketing Science to understand the potential revenue benefit to businesses who help their customers via Twitter. The Customer Service Impact Report revealed, among other things, that when customers tweeted and got responses to their tweets, they:

  • demonstrated stronger satisfaction with the experience
  • were more likely to recommend the brand and, finally
  • were also willing to pay a significantly higher price for a future purchase

The last statement is what should get the attention of all profit-making businesses. According to the study: “When a customer tweets at a business and receives a response, they are willing to spend 3–20% more on an average-priced item from that business in the future”. Customers were willing to pay 3% more on the next airline ticket, 10% more on their next transaction with a telco – and a whopping 20% more on the next pizza delivery. All because the company in question responded to a tweet from customers.

As if that is not enough, the study also revealed that when businesses respond favourably to tweets from their customers, there is an increase in word-of-mouth advertising from customers. Customers are 44% more likely to share the experience with others. Such customers are also 30% more likely to recommend that brand to others. In fact, when customer satisfaction surveys are conducted among the business’ customers, those customers who receive customer service via Twitter tend to indicate higher satisfaction levels.

There is a further aspect of the study by Twitter. It was found that the speed of response also matters to customers. The quicker the response, the more willing the customer is to spend more on that brand in the future. According to the study, if the response comes in less than a half-a-dozen minutes airline customers were willing to spend almost US$20 more on that airline for their next transaction.

When it comes to the customers of the telco industry, they were willing to pay US$17 more per month for a phone plan if they receive a reply within four minutes. However, if the response comes after 20 minutes customers drastically reduced the amount they would be willing to spend to just US$3.52 more.

It is understandable that customers tend to exhibit this kind of beneficial behaviour. The truth is that people love to be noticed and acknowledged. When a person tweets and no one responds, the individual feels ignored. On the contrary, when a tweet receives a response the individual’s need to be recognised is fulfilled. It is factual that recognition is central to our self-esteem as humans. Therefore, when a tweet from a customer gets a response from the brand or company in question, not only is the one’s sense of self-esteem appreciated but also the customer gets to have his or her issue addressed.

Twitter is so well-adapted to helping businesses provide great customer service because of some of the fantastic customer service-friendly features of the platform. For instance, if an aggrieved or concerned customer mentions a company’s name in a tweet and the organisation needs to discuss the matter privately, there is Direct Message link that the organisation can use. This creates a one-on-one conversation between the business and the customer. The advantage here is that the customer gets the undivided attention of the business while the business avoids unnecessary interventions from other customers.

A closely-related feature is that customers can share their impressions and opinions after a service interaction privately to the organisation. What this does is to present the organisation with a tailor-made customer satisfaction survey — without the organisation necessarily asking for it. Information that might have cost an arm and a leg to obtain is delivered to the organisation on a silver platter.

Twitter also allows businesses to indicate to their tweeting customers when they should expect to hear from the business. The advantage here is that the customers’ expectations are set – and if you know anything about customer service, you will know that it is all about expectations-management. These little features have a big impact on the quality of service that organisations can provide to their customers, and many businesses are taking advantage of them.

As a matter of fact, some companies take Twitter so seriously that some years ago it was said that Nevada, Las Vegas-based online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos offered lessons to its employees on the proper use of Twitter. This should not be too surprising since the maverick Chief Executive of the company, Tony Hsieh, insists that Twitter is one of the company’s most important channels. That is how seriously some organisations are taking this Twitter phenomenon.

In this part of the world, there is always temptation to think that these facts only apply to the advanced countries. Critics will quickly say that in Africa we “do things differently”. We are always quick to assume that due to low levels of literacy and other socio-economic factors, this whole Internet sensation does not touch us. That would not be right. What we mostly lose sight of is that Africa is a region with one of the fast-growing numbers of Internet users.

The Digital in 2018 report released by We Are Social and social media management platform Hootsuite, stated that Africa had the fastest growth rate in Internet penetration, with the number of Internet users across the continent increasing by more than 20% compared to 2017.  According to “In 2019, it is expected that 72.4 percent of worldwide online population will be accessing social networks, up from 69.6 percent in 2016”. Put these two stats together and it is not difficult to reason that the more Africa gets on the Internet, the more time we will spend on social media sites.

The phenomenon of social media does not look like it is going anywhere soon. Therefore, the smart thing for businesses to do is not to hide their heads in the sand like the proverbial ostrich. Organisations must take the bull by the horns and put in place structures and policies to take advantage of the many benefits of Twitter and its other social media siblings. This is the smart thing to do because, whether we like it or not, that little blue bird is going to be flying around for a long while.

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