Social media is more than a platform for brand marketing and advertising. It is also a critical customer service channel that enables customers to communicate with brands in real-time and vice versa.

According to the Sprout Social Index™, Edition XVII: Accelerate, 76% of consumers will reach out to the brands they follow on social for customer service, making social customer care a priority for any business.

When a brand delivers high-quality social service, 47% of consumers say they are best in class. But what constitutes “good” customer service? And how do you measure customer service quality?

We talked to four experts in social customer care and strategy about their customer service goals, best practices and how they measure success. We’ll walk through their top four goals, social customer care metrics and where to find them.

Their top four goals are as follows:

  • Provide timely responses
  • Resolve all problems, questions and inquiries
  • Offer 24/7 support
  • Increase customer satisfaction

So let’s dive in!

1. Provide timely responses

Key metrics:

  • Average reply time
  • Reply wait time
  • Time to first response
  • Resolution rate

How quickly a brand responds on social media contributes to their reputation for providing good customer service. While 79% of consumers expect a response in the first 24 hours of reaching out to a brand on social, 40% actually expect a response within the first hour

“The primary goal for any social customer support should be around speed of solving problems,” said Ellie Buckle, ex Head of Digital & Strategy at Purpose Media. “Customer support online follows the same basic rules as if it were in person, but many customers expect an even quicker response time.”

Brooke Sellas, the CEO of B Squared Media, also knows time is of the essence when delivering social support. “The biggest areas we look at with regards to customer care KPIs are response times—how quickly are we responding to mentions as they come in. And also time to resolution—the tracked time between a mention coming in on social, through any internal processes, and ending with closing the loop on social since it started on social,” said Sellas.

Buckle’s team at Purpose Media also focuses on time to resolution, also known as resolution rate. “When you’re measuring the speed of solving complaints or queries, it’s important to have a baseline time in mind. Then, proactively communicate with your customers if you aren’t going to hit that goal,” said Buckle. In other words, don’t leave your customers hanging, talk it out.

Sprout Social customer care features like the Engagement and Inbox Team Reports help users easily establish benchmarks, measure customer service performance and determine if they’re meeting their goals for timely responses.

The Inbox Team report is particularly beneficial if you have several people dedicated to providing social support through the Smart Inbox. The report breaks down reply metrics by team member, so each person can remain informed of and accountable for their performance.

2. Resolve all problems, questions and inquiries

Key metrics:

  • Reply or response rate
  • Total replies or response volume

High-quality customer service isn’t just about response times. You must also be resolving all of your customers’ problems, questions and inquiries that require comprehensive support solutions.

Effective inbox management also comes down to knowing which inbound messages to respond to and which can be marked as ‘done.’ For instance, compliments on your content don’t necessarily need a response. But if a customer sends a message about a product issue looking for a solution, letting them know you’re on top of it is critical.

“One of our top goals for customer support is ensuring that both positive and negative mentions are all addressed. And when we’re measuring the ROI of our customer support efforts, we look at several areas including response volume and response rate,” said Sellas.

Response rate is the rate that brands respond to messages or comments that they receive on a daily basis. Not every single comment or message will need a response, so if your response rate isn’t 100%, don’t sweat it.

Check out social response rate benchmarks by industry to get a sense of how your brand stacks up. Once you establish your own benchmark, response rate can be a good indicator of if you’re receiving and responding to more or fewer support issues than usual.

Instead of manually calculating response rate, Sprout’s Engagement report can do it for you. The report also shows how your Reply Rate and Reply Time metrics stack up against similar social profiles.

3. Offer 24/7 support

Key metrics:

  • Total unique users
  • Top received topics and subtopics
  • Most used quick replies

Providing timely customer service is a must, even during non-business hours. In those instances, chatbots can have your back.

“The most successful companies also embrace technology like automated chatbots. They make it so brands need less manpower and can communicate during off-hours that you aim to get back to all queries within 24 hours, which helps your customers really understand what level of service to expect from you,” said Buckle.

Using Sprout Social’s Bot Builder, Southern California Edison (SCE) is able to enhance its service capabilities and deliver customer care.

“Customers can share details of their issue in one step because the bot asks for this information up-front. This happens even before a human agent has to step in, which reduces the back and forth, said Carollyn Montales, SEC’s Online Community Management Senior Specialist. “That makes the process more efficient because it cuts down on the total time it takes to resolve that customer inquiry.”

Bots don’t just cut down on time, they also collect qualitative data and feedback. In Sprout’s Bot Reports, users can get a full analysis of how customers are engaging with chatbots and why.

Metrics like top received topics and subtopics and most used quick replies can help you determine what your audience most frequently needs help with. For instance, if your audience is using Bots to navigate technical support, you can pass that information along to your product teams and proactively create content that assists customers.

4. Improve customer satisfaction and sentiment

Key metrics:

  • Positive and negative sentiment
  • Voice of the Customer data

Social media users aren’t afraid to share their customer service experiences online, and with social media listening, you can capture sentiment, collect feedback and respond, even when your brand isn’t tagged.

Our own social team at Sprout uses listening for customer care as well. “Our primary goals for social customer care are to respond to all questions about Sprout, whether we’re tagged into a conversation or not,” said Olivia Jepson, the Social Media Specialist at Sprout. “We always monitor conversations around our content and product so we can listen to feedback, help solve a problem, connect our audience with our customer support team or even share a new perspective.”

When using listening for customer support, your primary focus should be on sentiment. Sentiment analysis, included in Sprout’s social listening tool, measures consumer perception of your products and services and maps out the change in sentiment over time. Sentiment analysis is a great complement to the data you collect from feedback forms and follow-up surveys about the customer experience.

If you notice sentiment start to dip, you can investigate what’s causing the change in perception and resolve the issue immediately. For instance, let’s say you have a Listening Topic set up to capture mentions of your brand and online orders. If sentiment starts to take a nosedive, you can click to view the messages that are moving the needle and find the specific issues your customers are having like shipping delays or order exchanges.

Make stellar social customer care a brand standard  

Whether you’re a social media team of one handling social support, part of a dedicated support team, or somewhere in between, ground yourself in your goals for customer service. Then, as you measure performance and social customer care metrics, you can adjust and better cater to your customers.

Want to get to know your customers on a deeper level and develop targeted customer care content? Listen to the voice of the customer. Download this guide to learn how to make better business decisions using VoC data.