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Customer decision-making affected by social media

A social media think tank, the Society for New Communications Research, recently conducted a survey to quantify the effect of social media on customer service. The research quantifies what we have suspected and that is that social media has a very big effect on customer decision making and that influential people are making use of it to “vent” and that other people are listening.
Top line results were launched in California on 22 April 2008:
  • 59.1% of respondents use social media to “vent” about a customer care experience
  • 72.2% of respondents research companies' customer care online prior to purchasing products and services at least sometimes
  • 84% of respondents consider the quality of customer care at least sometimes in their decision to do business with a company
  • 74% choose companies/brands based on others' customer care experiences shared online
  • 84% of respondents consider the quality of customer care in their decision to do business with a company at least sometimes
  • 81% believe that blogs, online rating systems and discussion forums can give consumers a greater voice regarding customer care, but less than 33% believe that businesses take customers' opinions seriously.

That less than a third believe that their opinions are taken seriously is also an important finding. It indicates that companies have a lot of waking up to do. You can't expect to be successful in a competitive market with parity products and services unless you are able to leverage relationships with your customers and where customers have the ability to talk not only to their six closest friends but to hundreds of thousands and even millions of people about their experience indicates the seriousness of the situation.

Customer intimacy is an intervention developed by PiKE to address this problem by engaging customers in a conversation, using the same technology but in a closed or gated community in addition to the standard PR, advertising and social media activities.

The research was conducted amongst affluent 25 - 55 year old graduates. It was not South African research but I am sure that a lot of value can be extrapolated from it, as at this level I believe that there is global commonality. The situation has not been brought about by social media. Social media has given our disgruntled and happy customers a platform. The implication is that we have to learn how to manage brands in a world where we are not in control.

About Walter Pike

PiKE ( is a marketing strategy and branding consultancy based in Johannesburg. Founder Walter Pike is conducting a morning seminar on the effect of social media on marketing on Thursday, 8 May 2008. Contact Walter on .