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The most critical Key Performance Indicator (KPI) in social media customer service

Measuring the impact that your social media interactions are having on your business — and your bottom line — can be a tricky endeavor. How can you really identify and quantify whether a particular social media encounter has been successful?

2017-02-21 21:40:07

Grégoire Vigroux
Marketing Director for Europe at TELUS International

What if a customer's problem was happily resolved, but it took 30 minutes to do it? If a company is uniquely focused on Average Handle Time, that may not seem like much of an accomplishment. Or, if an agent replies to a customer promptly, only to result in an abandoned online shopping cart, who wins then?

Key performance indicators (KPIs) exist to measure the success of companies' strategies and business objectives. It's important to have KPIs that suit the technology they're meant to measure, and the most meaningful success factors.

In the social media space, timing is everything. By and large, customers fire up Facebook and Twitter to sound off on problems they're facing right now — and they want a quick answer to match. That's why time-sensitive KPIs have become key metrics for many companies, as social media has emerged as a principal customer support channel.

Facebook badges reward good time to first reply

Average Speed to Respond is one of the most-used KPIs on social, says Mark Obee, social care leader at Intuit, the maker of finance programs Quicken, TurboTax and QuickBooks.

One way Obee ensures his team hits their response time goal is through Facebook's badge system, one of the social platform's customer-service-focused features for business pages. Users may see it as a widget on a Facebook page that reads "Very responsive, typically replies instantly" or "Typically replies within an hour." Facebook gives this badge to companies that have had a response rate of 90 percent, and an average response time of 15 minutes or less over the past seven days.

The badge system has proven beneficial to both customers and businesses, Obee says. "It's a fantastic way for a brand to show its commitment to delivering this customer benefit. The ‘highly responsive' badge has led to an uptick in direct messages for us," Obee says.

Jasdev Dhaliwal, the director of customer care self-service and social care at online-security firm Avast, says Facebook remains the biggest channel for customer queries. And since Facebook users demand rapid replies, the company has realigned its customer-service department around time to first reply. "Typically, customers expect a response from a brand within an hour to their question," Dhaliwal says.

Response time on Facebook can go by many names, but the outcome is the same. "At Avast, we measure this as Grade of Service (GoS). It's a measure of how long a support agent takes to respond to a customer inquiry," says Dhaliwal.

Same metric, different platform

Time to first reply isn't only a powerful KPI for Facebook, but also for Twitter, says Lisa Anderson, senior director of social support for Southwest Airlines. "We've found the quicker we connect with our audience — especially on Twitter — the more respectful the conversation tends to become," says Anderson. "If we help our customers in the moment, we're able to correct or diffuse a situation and prevent customers from reaching out to us through other, more traditional channels."

Social and digital media professor Krystina Roman agrees that Twitter is an optimal tool for quick customer-service-oriented communication. "The medium itself limits responses and comments to 140 characters, so customers can quickly explain their problem and customer service reps in return can quickly answer to the point," Roman says.

If further troubleshooting or explanation is required, a ticket can be escalated within Twitter itself through direct messaging (DM). Historically, Twitter users haven't been able to DM another user unless the two parties follow each other. For people trying to interact with brands, this has often meant that customers vent their grievances with brands publicly— a less than ideal scenario when word of mouth serves as a powerful consumer influencer.

However, a relatively recent change has allowed users to opt to have open DMs, meaning even those who don't follow a company on Twitter can send it a private message and get a reply. DMs don't have character limits, either, so a complicated problem can still be resolved within the platform. This open-DM policy lets companies better focus on resolving customer complaints and hitting key KPIs by reducing the amount of public noise around the brand's perceived faux-pas.

Expanding social support beyond Facebook and Twitter

As any customer-service strategist will tell you, the importance of replying to customers on their chosen platform — rather than making a risky step to move the conversation elsewhere — is paramount. But as social media apps and platforms have multiplied, so too have the number of channels on which to deliver customer service.

This has also required companies to innovate not only how they deliver customer service, but also what kind of customer service they deliver. Snapchat, for example, is a video-driven platform. Companies must assess their own customers' presence on a given platform, then rise to the challenge and experiment with the technology.

For enterprising companies, the result of using a new platform can be quite positive. David Basulto, the founder and CEO of iOgrapher, a vendor of iPhone and iPad-compatible camera equipment, says the company has had a lot of success interacting with Millennials over Snapchat. "I love the personal-ness of it," he told the Focus On Customer Service podcast. He also spoke about solving a new customer's problem using Snapchat because he could see that the man had plugged in his cables backwards. Basulto has also used Facebook to crowdsource ideas on what tutorials to make — which he then posts on Snapchat.

Brand sentiment – a powerful indicator

Brand sentiment may not in itself be an actual KPI, but it is a direct outcome of KPI-measurable exchanges. David Tull, the customer-engagement manager of online menswear vendor JackThreads, says brand sentiment has become a major measurement of success for his company. "Our team records sentiment manually as part of its contact resolution, which allows us to keep our finger on the pulse of how our customers react over time to different merchandise, service offerings or even marketing campaigns," says Tull.

Brand sentiment, after all, is often the difference between what keeps customers coming back — and what keeps them away. "Any contributions our social support team has made to help us be a better business can be traced back to tracking sentiment," Tull says.

In brief, many companies emphasize speed when it comes interacting with customers on social media, but other KPIs are also important. After all, JackThreads' experience, along with iOgrapher's success on Snapchat, show that deviating from the beaten path can yield surprisingly favorable results.

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