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Study Shows Social Media Slowly Replacing Face-to-Face Customer Interaction

IBM sat down to talk one-on-one with 1,700 CEO’s in 64 countries to discuss changes in how they do business.

First, let’s marvel at the logistics behind that. All those busy people. All those languages. All that data. Seriously, I don’t think we appreciate the effort that goes into these things. Now, let’s move on to the results.

To the right you see a chart with a surprising message. The CEO’s were asked how they engage with their customers. The top line represents where they are today, the bottom line where they expect to be in 3 to 5 years.

Right now, social media came in dead last but it’s expected to climb to the second spot in the coming years. At a glance, I would say that these results relate to B2B companies, but the report doesn’t say one way or the other. I understand B2B being heavily face-to-face. I don’t see it in business to consumer. But again, the study doesn’t specify one or the other so I have to assume it’s a mix.

Technology in general came up as the aspect most likely to impact business in the coming year. Their second choice was “People Skills.” It’s not well defined in the report, but I’m sure old school CEO’s are worried that technology is erasing our ability to connect one-on-one.

Looking internally, the top CEO’s agreed that the old corporate structure doesn’t work anymore. They said they were working toward an open and honest environment where collaboration and new ideas are encouraged at every level. They also stressed the importance of values and making sure that everyone in the company is on board and working toward the same goal.

But even with social media chipping away at face-to-face, the CEO’s said that personalization was still important. They believe that technology is giving us new ways to collect that data we need to listen and respond to our customers. IBM calls data a “critical new natural resource” that can be harnessed to propel a company to new heights.

What do you think? Has technology made it easier to listen and respond to our customers? Or are we moving farther and farther away from personalized, customer service?