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Modern customers 'expect' digital interaction with companies, says research

The modern social customer now 'expects' to digitally engage with companies, according to new research published today by First Direct and social media consultancy ItsOpen.

'The Future of Customer Service' report, which is based on the insights of executives, technologists and theoretical experts, says that customers are finding traditional company structures increasingly out dated, preferring instead to engage with them online.

According to the report, 2011 heralded the tipping point of social media into the main stream, with 44 per cent of adults using the web to interact with companies, most particularly to air grievances.

The modern customer now expects to be heard and respected by companies when interacting with them online and, as a result, companies must ensure that they have an active online presence that can deliver a swift response.

The report claims that companies who adapt and move towards a social enterprise by empowering staff to interact with customers online can expect to see the benefits of reduced costs, strengthened customer loyalty and increased positive brand awareness.

The report says: "Successful social companies need to be able to engage in their customers' conversations online. The model of expecting someone to sit and listen to hold music on the phone while they wait to speak to your customer services team is starting to look out dated.

"The rise of the social customer has prompted the growth of the social company - the company that listens to its customers, interacts with them and asks them to contribute to and collaborate in future developments. The pioneer social companies are already seeing that the social customer is helping them to improve the bottom line."

Justin Hunt, founder of ItsOpen, said customers now value company interaction as a major factor in deciding who to do business with.

Hunt says: "2012 looks set to be the year of the social customer. It is up to companies to catch up, engage with these valuable brand advocates and make the most of the opportunities offered by social media."