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The dawn of the digital age and the explosive growth of social media has evolved the buying cycle. With it came the rise of a new customer—one that has been known to shake up even the most respected brands. Today, we know this new entity of business as none other than the “Social Customer.”

The Social Customer is every man, woman and child that is an active participant of social media – roughly 1.4 billion people. The voice of the Social Customer has proved to be so powerful that it has created PR and social media mayhem for companies ranging in size from the pizza giant, Papa John’s to a small restaurant in Arizona. In this day and age, every customer has a voice. Even the largest organizations are quickly realizing the undeniable authority of today's Social Customer.

1. The Social Customer Listens to their Peers – Not the Companies

If you’re a business owner, today’s online forums and review sites may be perceived as a curse and a blessing. These are huge destinations for Social Customers considering over 1.1 million reviews have been posted on Yelp. For successful businesses, a four or five star rating on a review site such as Yelp or TripAdvisor is just as powerful as any marketing or advertising campaign. The issue here is that these reviews are completely out of the hands of business owners – they need to constantly be mindful of serving the needs of every, single one of their customers. To put this in a better perspective, more than 88% of consumers are influenced by other consumers’ online comments (Source). The weight of the Social Customer has grown drastically, as their word has become the new trusted voice.

2. Unhappy Customers Tell Their Friends, Who Tell Their Friends

Jeff Bezos may have put it best when he famously said: “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.” Due to the rise of social media, today’s Social Customer has become more connected to their peers than ever before. Companies have quickly realized that no customer experience is safe from going unheard.  Especially since on average, one Social Customer will tell 42 other people about an experience they have had with a company (Source).

Do you still believe a customer service complaint goes unnoticed on social media? More than one million people view Tweets about customer service every week. Unfortunately, roughly 80% of these Tweets are critical or negative by nature (Source). You can count on it that potential prospects are more likely to pay attention to a current customer’s tweet rather than an enticing offer from the brand.

3. If You Ignore the Social Customer, They’re Not Buying

Here’s a startling fact: 88% of consumers are less likely to buy from companies that ignore complaints and questions on social media (Source).  A huge component of social media is built upon the fact that it is an open display of trust between a business and their customer. If a company fails to respond to a question on social media, to many people, this is a breach of trust – the company doesn’t care about their customers’ problems. 

Thanks to the Internet, customers now have the ability to access and research more products and services than ever before. Essentially, they have more choices. A simple lack of attention to a customer service complaint or question is all it takes for the Social Customer to move on to their next option.

4. Companies Are Adjusting to the Social Customer’s Expectations

In today’s age of constant connectivity and instant solutions, the Social Customer demands immediate assistance at any hour of the day. So what are the Social Customer’s expectations of a company responding to their inquiries? According to the 2,000-person poll from Parature, 83% of Twitter users and 71% of Facebook users expect a customer service response from a brand within a day (Source). These expectations may be viewed as extremely demanding – especially outside of office hours or during peak seasons. However, many smart companies are scrambling to make the necessary adjustments to provide for these expectations!

5. Companies That Actively Engage with the Social Customer See Better Results

The Social Customer is no longer limited to support phone lines or emails. Today, they have the ability to make their customer support problems public thanks to social media. In fact, 47% of U.S. social media users now actively seek customer service through social media (Source), and for the organizations that deliver, they are seeing positive results from their efforts. Customers who receive a quick and effective response are 71% more likely to recommend the brand.  Smart brands fully understand the authority of the Social Customer and use it to their advantage by engaging them and providing exceptional customer service. This increases brand loyalty, brand advocacy and ultimately, produces positive results. To drive this point home, loyal customers that engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers (Source). Failure to engage the Social Customer results in less positive outcomes.

The Bottom Line

Companies should not be boarding up their shops in fear that the Social Customer might come knocking on their door. These 5 reasons are essentially a wake up call that social media has radically changed the buying cycle and companies need to be buttoned-up and understand how to work with today's customers. Take a look at the SlideShare presentation Desk.com has put together below to receive a more in-depth understanding of the Social Customer and how your company can work to improve social customer service.

The Undeniable Authority of the Social Customer from Desk