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You have a customer service issue. Should you go to the company website? Call their toll-free number (if they actually even have one)? Post a message on their Facebook page? All of the above? And on the flip side, if you're the company, how do you track and manage touch points with customers across an ever growing number of sources?

To find out, the folks over at ClickFox, a company specializing in customer experience analytics, conducted a survey to assess the potential cost savings from addressing customer service issues via social media, the impact of word of mouth influence in the social sphere, and the degree to which customers understand the tools currently available to them.

customer service

They found 40.2% of customers who weren't able to get their issues resolved in a timely manner via social media then resorted to calling the company's toll-free number. ClickFox estimates each phone call to customer service can cost companies $15 or more—avoidable costs that can directly impact a company's bottom line.

It will probably come as no surprise, but word of mouth was HUGE. 96.5% of customers indicated they were "somewhat influenced" to "very influenced" by other customers' comments about companies. That means only 3.5% responded that they were "not at all influenced" by customer comments. As the social commerce market continues to grow, the role of consumer reviews and comments will become an increasingly important factor when making buying decisions.

"Companies must figure out a way to incorporate social channels into a total customer service solution that they can manage throughout the complete lifecycle of the customer" says Amir Dekel, director of product marketing and communications at ClickFox. "They need to be able to capture what happens during every interaction—to create a link between an anonymous Twitter user and their CRM system" Dekel added.

But not all customers are on the social media customer service bandwagon yet. 76.1% responded they would be more likely to use social media for customer service and support if they better understood the tools available to fit their specific needs. That means companies must focus on educating their customer base on how and when to use each social media platform in a way that's easy to understand.

Although use of social media as a customer service channel is still an emerging trend in most industries, results from ClickFox's survey underscore the opportunity for potential cost-savings for companies, the importance of word of mouth, and the potential for widespread adoption once consumers fully understand how and why to use social media.

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