Social media is transforming customer service. In the past 30 years customer service channels have moved swiftly from letter, through telephone, to email, webchat, and now social media. Companies have struggled to keep up with the emergence of this new multichannel world: in 2012 Oracle reported that 46% of online customers expect brands to provide customer service on Facebook, but only 23% were providing it.

Gartner has reported that enterprise take-up is gathering pace: "In 2010, only 5 percent of organizations took advantage of social/collaborative customer action to improve service processes; however, at current trajectories, within five years we expect that community peer-to-peer support projects will supplement or replace Tier 1 contact center support in more than 40 percent of top 1,000 companies with a contact center."

Measurement challenges

A major challenge that is emerging for these companies is measuring the effectiveness of their social customer care work. Partly this is because of the speed at which social customer service is taken up - Dell adopted social media early and it now manages 25,000 social conversations per day – but it is also because conversations bounce between channels so it can be difficult to allocate costs and returns to individual channels.

Finding an effective way to measure the effectiveness of social customer care is important if companies are to ensure that their programmes are achieving their business goals and objectives, and their personnel are achieving their potential and that operations are efficient. Investment in social cannot occur simply because it is “the next big thing”. It must be measured, refined, and a return produced.

Selecting metrics

To date, companies have used fairly crude social media metrics, such as number of “likes” or “followers”. These are good for measuring top-of-the-funnel activities but will not necessarily correlate to a successful social care programme grounded in business goals. You need to define more granular metrics across service, quality and effectiveness.

8 service metrics to consider

- Percentage of incoming posts that an agent answers in a pre-defined amount of time
- Average amount of time agents work on social media responses during a pre-defined interval of time
- Percentage of posts never responded to or looked at by social team during a pre-defined interval of time
- Total number of social posts that meet the requirements of the listening platform for a pre-defined interval of time
- Total number of relevant social posts that should be responded to by a company for a pre-defined interval of time
- Total number of social posts submitted directly on a company’s social properties for a pre-defined interval of time
- Total number of responses posted by company representatives for a pre-defined interval of time
- Total number of unsolicited messages sent to social customers from company representatives. This measures outreach activities for a pre-defined interval of time.

The tables on these pages offer some suggestions for what these metrics might be. Each campaign is of course different, but these might provide some initial ideas. It is also important to consider timescales and to improve these over time. For example, industry best practice is to measure the percentage of posts answered by agents every half-hour and report it as a weighted average over the day. Currently many companies measure it on a daily basis so this can be improved.

4 quality measures to consider

- First Post Resolution: Percentage of posts resolved in social media channel on first response
- Quality of Response: Measure of the quality of an agent’s written communication
- Redirect Rate: Percentage of responses that redirect customers to a private conversation, such as chat or voice
- Transfer Rate: Percentage of responses that are transferred to another department

While many companies might focus on service and quality measures, it is just as important to consider effectiveness metrics. Reach, loyalty and conversion rate help measure how much more revenue is gained through social care interactions and how much brand equity is built through positive interactions. Influence and brand evangelist index can help prioritise posts and allocate scarce agent resource most effectively.

5 effectiveness measures to consider

- Reach: the number of people who are subscribed, following or friended on the social channels where agents are posting messages
- Potential Influence: adding together the different influence metrics from each of the social networks. For example, Twitter publishes how many followers a Tweeter has and how often they tweet. Facebook publishes how many friends a given member has
- Amplification: How likely an individual is to retweet or repost
- Brand Evangelist Index (BEI): Indicator of how likely a customer is to evangelize your brand on social networks. Historically BEI has been calculated by correlating and adding together customer satisfaction surveys
- Loyalty: A customer who continually purchases from a company when alternative, comparable products are available from competitors. Loyal customers are often brand advocates and price insensitive

Bottom-line impact

There is then much to be done to gain a clear measure of the value of a social customer service programme. However there is help available. Firstly, technology is rapidly evolving to automate many of these calculations and this is an area to watch closely.

Secondly, if social media care is outsourced to a third party, then that business process outsourcer should track and report on many of these metrics, including schedule adherence and scheduled efficiency. They will also be able to give you a clear picture of the effect this social media engagement has had on your overall customer service provision, including whether it allows you to reduce resource for telephone support.

Whichever route you choose it is vital you begin to engage through social. Not only are tech-savvy customers demanding engagement through social media, and enjoying more rapid resolution when they receive it, but the shift from a one-to-one model to a one-to-many model brings significant efficiencies. Furthermore, customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20% to 40% more money with those companies than other customers according to Bain.


By Philippe Ougrinov, VP, Sales & Marketing at TELUS International Europe. 

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