Once again we see that young consumers want to be able to address customer service issues using social media, according to a new study by Sitel.

Led by consumers aged under 25, Britons are turning to social media sites – including Facebook, Twitter, blogs and forums – to solve problems, search for information or voice complaints.

The survey, which interviewed more than 1,000 adults within the UK aged 16-24, found that 15% of 16-24 year olds prefer to interact with customer service on social media over any other method, compared to 8% of 25-34 year olds and 3% of 35-44 year olds.

Highlighting how important social media has become for voicing gripes about brands, 7% of 16-24 year olds said the first thing they do when they have a problem with a product is to complain about it on social media.

But while the emphasis on social media is increasing, it should be seen as only one part of a broader approach to customer service.

The first thing 57% of consumers will do when they have a problem with a product is search for a solution online. This breaks down to 71% of 16-24 year olds, 65% of 25-34 year olds and 64% of 35-44 year olds, 

However companies need to know their audience – 64% of consumers aged 55-64 contact the manufacturer or retailer from which they purchased a product directly when they encounter a problem.

When asked what companies could do to improve the customer service experience, 81% of consumers aged 55-64 said ‘make contact numbers easier to find’, compared with 52% of consumers aged 16-24.

Across all demographics, 33% of consumers have used online forums or chat rooms, 25% have used video tutorials, either on YouTube or a company’s website, 19% have posted a query on a question website, such as Quora, Facebook Questions or Yahoo Answers, and 11% have used a tutorial or demonstration on a blog.

The data from Sitel’s study shows that social media is growing in importance as a tool for customer service, and the emphasis on this channel will only increase as the younger demographics grow up.

Yomego MD Steve Richards wrote earlier today about 2012 being the year that social customer service will come of age. He said that Twitter will become more than just a tool for responding to consumers, and will allow brands to recruit customers for online communities to develop products and report issues.