Trends play out over many years, some decades. They gather pace so slowly as to not be noticed until suddenly everything comes together. Within the customer service space there are several converging trends that will at first disrupt and then fundamentally change how service is delivered.
Simply put, demographics, youth preferences and economic incentives are conspiring to drive social media as the predominate communications channel and therefore the main way customer service will de delivered in the future, whether that’s direct from an organization or peer-to-peer. Social customer care’s time has come, here’s why –
Just over 50% of the world’s population is under 30 and an incredible 90% of them live in emerging countries. This is the largest generation to ever enter adolescence and their decisions and preferences will shape consumer trends and drive economic growth for decades.
Numerous studies have shown that Millennials (aka Generation Y) have a strong preference for text-based interaction. In fact, it’s this very group driving the growth of over-the-top (OTT) mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, SnapChat and WeChat. Want further evidence? Consider this: in 2014 WhatsApp alone had more volume than all the SMS sent in the world! This is no surprise for mobile operators who’ve seen their voice and SMS revenue in decline for years.
Another important preference for Generation Y is the use of mobile (increasingly smartphones) as their primary method of accessing the web and social media. Smartphone connections as a percentage of total mobile connections currently stand at 38% (2.7B of 7.1B) and it’s Generation Y & Z who will drive this percentage higher in the years ahead with their mobile first mentality.
So while youth preferences are playing a part in smartphone growth, there’s also another powerful force at play – economic incentives. The first part of this is the lower cost of ownership that smartphones provide. Instead of per minute and per text charges, consumers can send unlimited volumes of messages to friends as part of their data plans via social networks and messaging apps.
The second part of this is the trend towards mobile operators providing data access to social sites like FB and Twitter for free. If you then consider the growing ubiquity of free wifi, you understand why consumers, especially in the developing world, have shifted to the cheapest forms of communication and why social apps in particular are growing so quickly.
Social is mobile (or mobile is social)
Last week FB reported a staggering 1.19 billion monthly active users (MAU) over mobile in their most recent quarter, which represents 85% of its 1.4 billion-user base. Bigger picture, We Are Social states that of the 2.08 billion active social media accounts globally, 1.69 billion (81%) are accessed via mobile devices and on average consumers are spending 2.4 hours a day on these social accounts.
Connecting the dots
Bringing this all together then, what you have is a very large, mobile first generation of young people with a preference for text-based interaction that is being incentivized to use social networks as their principle means for communication. And 90% of them just happen to live in markets with little legacy customer care infrastructure.
And just as many of these developing markets skipped fixed line build-out altogether and jumped straight to mobile access, younger generations will skip voice based customer service and move straight to text-based interaction via social platforms. This will play out over the coming two decades as hundreds of millions of youth ‘speak’ with their fingers. Your actions speak so loudly; I can’t hear your words.