Social media has become a critical tool for customer care across industries, with more than half of senior executives (52 percent) now indicating that social media is currently a part of their company’s customer care operations, and 57 percent indicating that their company is currently monitoring online conversations.

That’s according to the third annual Executive Outsourcing Survey, conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of consulting firm Capgemini, which also found that 36 percent of executives say their company measures the value of its social media program for customer care.

Nevertheless, more than one in ten executives (13 percent) still views social media monitoring as a fad that will not significantly affect their company’s success.

More than half of executives (57 percent) view social media as a means for inviting customer input on product and services, lead generation, responding to complaints, internal reporting, and measuring customer satisfaction.

But there is still uncertainty amongst executives in how best to leverage the increasing influence of social media to benefit their company. For example, the survey points to confusion within the organization around whose role it is to manage social media for customer care, and when and how they should be interacting with customers.

Most executives (73 percent) are unfamiliar with how many employees at their company are currently dedicated to “listening” to customer conversations on the internet, and most executives whose company is using social media activities with respect to customer care (64 percent) rely solely on their marketing department for social media monitoring.

“The use of social media as part of a strategic customer operations strategy is still emerging, but it presents companies with a clear opportunity to engage with current customers, find new ones and build brand awareness in an increasingly competitive landscape,” says David Poole, vice president and head of americas business process outsourcing, Capgemini.