Social customer support

Social customer service: How do you measure performance?

23rd May 2016
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As the old saying goes: if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. And if you aren’t managing it, you probably can’t improve it. In the realm of social media customer service, this is looking a gift horse in the mouth.

“Companies that consistently use data to improve social customer service have the opportunity to compete on more than just price and product — they get to compete on customer experience,” says Vit Horky, founder & CEO of Brand Embassy.

“This is a powerful differentiation strategy few companies have mastered, which presents a big opportunity for those who do. The digital age has shown that customers want (and increasingly expect) more than just a product or service, they want an experience, an experience they will share on social media.”

And research indicates that customers are even more likely to share their experience with their network if that experience is a negative one. Even more reason to keep a close eye on your performance.

Social is real-time and public. If your customers aren’t happy with your products or services, they’re not going to just tell you about it, they’re going to tell other people also,” warns Dean McCann, founder of HelpHandles. “So it’s vital to not only measure, but to closely track and benchmark your performance to ensure your customers are getting the best service possible in the fast-paced, real-time world of social media.”

However, measurement has historically been something of a thorny issue in the world of social media. Marketers have been vocal about the challenges relating to campaign performance on social platforms, and service leaders are also confronted with various obstacles in their quest to monitor and measure performance.

Bian Salins, head of digital & social at TSB Bank, notes: “The main challenges are simply that to do social customer service well, you need to integrate it with existing customer service operations and processes. And since most existing channels are pure one-to-one channels that can be logged, tracked for duration and closed in a looped interaction, they’re easier to measure by ‘rigid’ metrics, such as first contact resolution, call handling time, contacts per hour, etc.). Throw in a conversation that isn’t often looped or linked to a single team/individual and can take several days/weeks depending on the nature of the query, and all these ‘rigid’ metrics become less relevant. Contact centres aren’t set up or empowered to find new ways of measuring staff effectiveness.

“Queries over social can start out as one thing and quickly turn into a different query – which you can’t transfer across to another department – so measuring closed cases and agent performance is complex. While it’s improved as technology has improved, the issue fundamentally lies in the culture of any given organisation. Organisations need to adapt to the concept that the nature of contact is constantly evolving and so too, our ways of working must evolve.”

Guy Stephens, social customer care consultant at IBM, adds: “In an omnichannel world, we need to be very precise about what it is we are trying to measure and where what we are trying to measure took place. If a customer posts a complaint to Twitter and then it’s escalated to chat, and finally completed via email, unless you take measurement up to a macro level of ‘experience’, ’satisfaction’ or ‘effort’ for example, it becomes very complex to focus on the individual component parts.”

However, despite these challenges, the issue of measurement is not insurmountable.

In an omnichannel world, we need to be very precise about what it is we are trying to measure and where what we are trying to measure took place.

As Salins notes: “Adapting our mindset is a starting point. In previous roles, we found metrics that demonstrated measurement against the role social customer care played in our overarching strategy. For example, for one brand we saw most customer contact was coming from people who were at the point of churning. We found ways to measure churn reduction by post interaction surveys. I’d say understanding the role that social customer care plays in the customer journey is an absolutely key step to start formulating performance metrics.”

She continues: “Training staff is also key to overcoming obstacles when measuring social customer care performance. Many call centre managers and team leaders I’ve worked with, work in very tight operational environments compounded by very rigid ways of working. When they find themselves in an unstructured environment, without the understanding of the nature and complexity of the medium and the tools/technology to make their jobs easier – they often end up just doing their day jobs and helping their staff, without focusing on the overall performance. Managers and staff need to have training in social customer care to overcome this.”

And there are also simple measures that can be put in place in a bid to capture a snapshot of the general performance level.

“As with other contact channels, it’s important to train agents to deliver social customer care and then automatically look to invite the customer to complete a short survey,” recommends Luke Porter, founder of DigiDesk. “One of the real benefits of doing this on social media is the ability to compare the initial sentiment of the conversation with the resulting survey. This gives organisations a tangible way to measure the uplift in customer satisfaction (or social advocacy) as a direct result of their social customer service endeavours.”

But with so many metrics that organisations can track, which ones should service leaders be focusing their attention on? We asked some experts to share their thoughts on the most important social media customer service metrics to monitor.

Customer effort

“Customer effort has become a new metric brands are latching on to,” says Salins. “It often lends itself to social customer care and live chat – simply because the customer has no cost and little effort to connect with someone. So for this reason it’s a good one to include in your overall metrics and can often help with investment with resource and technology.”

Traffic volume

Specifically, how many enquiries are being received and how are they being responded to?

Blaise Grimes-Viort, chief services officer at Emoderation, notes: “This is especially important when it comes to resourcing. How many enquiries are your team able to respond immediately and how many with a holding post saying that someone will investigate and get back to them shortly, and what categories do the issues come under? This metric needs to be examined at the top company level and also at the agent level.”

Response time

How long does it take, on average, to respond to enquiry.  

McCann says: “I think ultimately customers are looking for a fast response; it’s why they are choosing social over more traditional means of communication. So a fast first response time is going to be important to measure how responsive your company is towards its customers. Even if a problem cannot be resolved immediately, acknowledging the customer quickly and managing their expectations can go a long way to keeping them engaged with your business and increasing customer satisfaction.”

“This again needs to be measured at a company level and at the agent level to identify any training requirements or resourcing issues,” adds Grimes-Viort.

Response rate

“With social being so public, having a presence and solving a few queries isn’t good enough. Replying to every inbound mention your company receives on social and trying to do so in under 30m might be tough, but will likely have a positive impact on how customers view you,” says McCann.

Porter adds: “Quantitative metrics should include the % of mentions managed and the time taken to respond. It’s also important to measure ‘reason codes’ (or nature of the enquiry) and the 'resolution codes’ - i.e. whether the query was resolved or no action was necessary.”

Resolution times

What are the handling times?

“How quickly is an issue resolved? Similar to in a call centre, is it handled on the first enquiry or does the customer have to contact the brand multiple times, how long does an agent spend resolving the issue?” says Grimes-Viort.


“The company needs to know that social media customer service is effective and customers are going away happy, hopefully meaning they will return,” notes Grimes-Viort. “Using tools, sentiment can be gauged on the first contact from the customers and then again on resolution. Like other metrics, measuring this manually isn’t an option due to the time it would take.”

Porter adds: In terms of qualitative metrics, we should still be measuring sentiment, although we would recommend a 1-10 scale to help identify high praise or strong dissatisfaction. But, through feedback surveys, companies should be gathering customer-driven metrics on customer satisfaction, customer effort and NPS (Net Promoter Score).”

“NPS, which is a common measure for most brands and I’ve often found using this one to be useful to get the organisation to take social customer care seriously,” agrees Salins.


Porter also recommends measuring customer satisfaction in tandem with sentiment. “I would say that the key measure here is to compare social sentiment on the way in, with customer satisfaction on the way out. By harnessing a 1-10 score at each stage, organisations can get a tangible metric to measure the positive impact of their social customer care, and how they are improving customer advocacy over time. They can even then start to quantify a tangible ROI for their social customer care teams!”

Final things to consider

There is no one-size-fits-all. Toby Beresford, founder of Rise, believes that rather than adopting a standard set of metrics used by all brands in social customer support, each organisation should devise its own set of measurements.  “There is no one-size-fits-all: all organisations are different and will be looking to achieve different goals with their social customer care,” he says. “Additionally, the organisation should mash together metrics from multiple systems to produce a rounded picture of activity.”

Don’t measure social in isolation. “Understand the role social plays in the overall customer journey, and look for patterns of behaviour where your customers or agents are having pain points,” advises Stephens.

Think about performance metrics from a customer perspective. Stephens recommends: “Think about some of the reasons your customer reaches out to you on Twitter, Facebook or the other social channels and put yourself and your agents in that situation: how would you want your brand to respond? Based on that, start formulating the most relevant and impactful metrics to ensure your agent only expends the least amount of effort required to create the most relevant experience for that customer at that moment in time. Thinking through the eyes of your customer, and not reverting to a brand view, is no easy task, and will force you to really understand what things look like from a different perspective?

Don’t create a rigid system of measurement. “[Create] an environment that actively encourages people to experiment or adjust performance metrics in response to changes in customer behavior,” recommends Stephens. He emphasizes the importance of creating an environment that is open to change, and embraces a continuous cycle of ‘experiment and learn’. “And don’t forget to do this from the perspective of your customer,” he adds. “Although some might argue that actually more consideration needed to be placed on empowering the experience of your frontline social customer care agents and ensuring they have the requisite tools they need to ensure value is delivered in each and every customer interaction.”

Share your performance findings. “My advice is for brands to become more transparent with their social customer care performance,” says McCann. “I’d like to see more brands keeping their customers informed of their performance. We are increasingly living in an ‘on demand’ economy, keeping customers up to date on performance metrics and ratings across social channels should become a key part of that.”

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By EJohn Morris
24th May 2016 07:44

Neil, great article highlighting the challenges of measuring and tracking performance. The other part of "if you can't measure it you can't manage it" is "what you measure is what you get!" With many call centres almost measuring themselves to a standstill. What is important is to determine what needs to me achieved or improved, focusing the measurement activities there. You are correct in saying that each business is different and customers will determine how good businesses are by how they feel about the brand.
Very relevant discussion thanks

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