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A new report has revealed that 7 out of 10 Australian businesses are using social media to deliver customer service, but only 3 in 10 customers are looking to interact via these platforms.

The adoption of social media by businesses is not new, in fact having an online presence is now the norm with even small businesses jumping on board, but a new study highlights that there is quite a large disconnect in Australia between how consumers use social media and what businesses expect from them.

Research firm Fifth Quadrant released the recent Emerging Channels report, which explores the evolution of social media as a customer service channel, and which reveals some interesting findings. 

Consumer vs business expectation

Chris Kirby, head of research at Fifth Quadrant, said one of the reasons this disconnect is occurring is because the two groups are looking for each other in the wrong places. 

The preferred social platform for Australian consumers to connect with businesses is Facebook, followed by online forums and communities and YouTube. Twitter, LinkedIn and blogs were the least popular options, with over 70% of consumers saying they “rarely” or “never” turn to these sites for customer service purposes.

In contrast, businesses prefer to conduct customer service on Twitter, with more than 75% of organisations ranking this as their number one choice.

Company blogs, websites and online communities followed in second place, followed by Facebook in third.

To combat this, Kirby stresses that businesses need to treat social media as they would any other communications channel - by developing realistic long-term resourcing plans.

Simply creating a new service channel then standing back and waiting for the customers to come won’t work. If organisations want to offer customer service through social media, they need to go to the networks that their customers use.

Another factor that seems to be contributing to the divide is concern over safety and a customer perception that the channel lacks personal interaction. 

Yet this does look set to change. 

In the three months prior to the survey only 31% of Australian consumers said they had used social media for a customer service interaction, although almost 1 in 3 said they did use it “often” when seeking customer service. 

However, thinking ahead - in the next twelve months 33% of consumers said they plan to increase their use of social media for customer service purposes. 

[Image credit: Rosaura Ochoa]

Claire Brinkley

Published 30 April, 2013 by Claire Brinkley

Claire Brinkley is Econsultancy Australia's news and insight reporter. Follow her on Twitter, Google+ or connect with her on LinkedIn

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